There’s no question that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has hit the mainstream for companies of all sizes. The last five years have seen an explosion of interest in CSR (or Corporate Citizenship), driven by our changing society, pressure from employees, interest from customers and often a company’s own desire to have a positive impact.
While CSR has become increasingly popular and arguably important from an image perspective, you don’t find a lot of content or discussion online about how companies should be thinking about how they communicate their commitment to CSR. Of course it goes without saying that we’re talking about appropriate communication here, but the reality is that many companies don’t share the great work they’re doing – and they should.
Last week I had the good fortune of meeting with Kellie McElhaney, Corporate Responsibility Faculty Director at the Haas School of Business in UC Berkeley. She is a passionate advocate of CSR, but more importantly of CSR being aligned with a company’s core business strategy and of the need for companies to sensibly measure and promote the impact of their CSR efforts.
I have just finished her book: Just Good Business and I would strongly recommend it. Kellie takes a real world, pragmatic view of CSR and how it can and should be connected and delivering value to your business – while also having a positive impact in society.
The book doesn’t get lost in the theory but instead provides excellent real-world insights and examples of how companies are (and are not) effectively implementing CSR programs in their business. She also looks at the measurement and appropriate promotion of CSR efforts.
As valuable as CSR is, it is not the panacea to all that ails companies – lousy products, overpriced services, poor branding, or inadequate customer segmentation – let alone all that ails the world. Similarly, I want to be clear that telling your story always holds an element of risk, although I would argue that the risk of telling your CSR story is likely significantly less than not telling your CSR story.
If you’re working in PR and your employer or client is making an investment in CSR (and I’m imagining that if they aren’t they are in the minority) then do yourself a favor and buy the book. How we manage and communicate CSR is becoming more important and if you’re not already thinking about it, your probably should be – regardless of your industry or location.
This is a subject I’ll come back to again…