How to Fix Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Some consumers don’t care about whether or not a company has a corporate social responsibility program.  However, perhaps that’s because, despite corporations across the globe collectively spending over $20 billion annually on CSR programs, some of those same firms concurrently lobby for deregulation in their industries to allow for more growth and profits, consciously counteracting their own CSR efforts.

This likely works to their advantage in the short term because the general public tends to pay more attention to the press than it does to regulatory frameworks.  However, as the world continues to become more transparent and corporations are increasingly called out for discrepancies between external-facing communications (such as CSR programs) and shrouded lobbying efforts, the need for truly embodying the philosophy of those CSR programs will become apparent.

For brands who do fully embrace those philosophies, they become known instead as being purpose-driven.  As a result, studies show that those brands outperform their peers in numerous ways – such as gaining 46% more wallet share and outperforming the stock market by 133%.  Starbucks, Whole Foods, and IDEO are consistently used as examples of massively successful firms who still work daily to contribute to their employees and society as a whole, and their balance sheets can speak to how the world has repaid them for it.  

However, simply embracing a CSR program still may not be enough.  Consumer engagement with CSR programs is lacking despite the fact that individuals and organizations now strongly influence, and partially control, a corporation’s’ brand, products, services, and even operations.

This results in brands needing to answer several questions.  If they are pursuing the type of growth and profitability that comes with being a purpose-driven brand, how can they properly communicate their CSR programs so that those resources aren’t wasted?  Should media spend and creative strategies be measured differently when being employed to communicate CSR efforts?  And most importantly, if that is the case, how should it be done?

“Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.” 

– William Clay Ford Jr., Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

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