by Karin Bloomquist
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an integral part of modern business practices in the corporate world. It is often seen as the key to success and is known to have significant and lasting effects where the business’ code of ethics is strong. A great CSR program integrates social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with stakeholders on a voluntary basis. This allows for increased transparency and accountability, and it is important that businesses and their publics understand these two-way, responsible partnerships.
That being said, corporate CSR is ideally not a form of philanthropy. According to Forbes, many companies still have yet to move on from the idea that CSR is not just increasing charity work. Real CSR programs have benefits like increased brand reputation and credibility, improved risk and supply chain management, cost savings from efficiency improvements, and revenue. It is essential to consider the groups of individuals that are affected by corporate practices in order to have successful results.
According to Edelman’s 2012 Good Purpose® Study, which explores global consumer attitudes around social purpose, 76% of global consumers believe it is acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time, which is a 33% increase globally from 2008 when the study first started. Additionally, the study states that 72% of consumers would recommend a brand that supports a cause and 71% would help promote a brand they behind had a good cause behind them. Not only are consumers behind the idea of CSR programs, but also the concept improves the thought leadership of the corporate brand.
It is suggested that companies, not governments, will solve the world’s biggest problems. Governments are primarily self-interested and motivated towards the security of their nation and the well being of their citizens. The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) suggestions that it is not at all clear today that the sum of “national interests” equals the “public interest” of the world. Because corporations are global by nature, they have an advantage of being border-free and are willing to help those that are outside of national interests. Additionally, customers are the stakeholders in the corporate world. Getting close to individuals and communities is what they do best.
Storytelling is a great way to position a successful CSR program, but getting close to the issues people care about the most drives people to be more engaged and get involved by taking matters into their own hands. Timothy Devinney at NBS suggests that social and environmental sustainability are among the lower priority issues, especially when they are framed as global rather than local. What corporations should be focused on is how to personalize the issues that they want their employees, communities, and stakeholders to care about. The closer people feel to an issue, the more likely it will hit home and they will want to do something to help.
Corporate firms of the future drive transformation through values-based leadership and stakeholder empowerment. They don’t push change; they inspire a culture around it. It is not just a business strategy for corporate success; it is a sustainable and responsible strategy that helps them better understanding of the community around them.