Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

After many years of economic crisis, environmental issues and other great (but bad) events/news that have flourished in the past couple of decades, more and more companies around the world are using Corporate Responsibility Programs in their marketing mix as a way to develop (increase) certain Human characteristics in their brand proposals. These human features facilitate the engagement that a consumer will have with a brand.

From the business side of the brand, these events should be as “costless” as possible while bringing the positive effect of image.

However, some consumers still criticize these types of efforts with comments such as:

  • “Marketing stunt or corporate responsibility?”
  • “…If they communicate the program, they are filling their pockets…”
By definition:

CSR refers to a self-regulation that companies integrate in their business models to ensure the compliance of the law, ethical standards and international norms. Its goal is to have a positive impact through the company’s activities that impact the environment, consumers, customers, employees, communities & stakeholders.

CSR is not an altruistic proposition to impact positively any program.

The problem for brands is that consumers cannot differentiate the brands that are “socially responsible” form the ones that are not, whereas the first type should have a competitive advantage over the other(s), Hence, the effort to communicate CSR programs to build awareness and gain the benefits of being a brand that “cares”.

This shouldn’t create scepticism about the CSR programs, because it’s different money that goes to ATL (letting people know) than the money that goes to the program (whether it’s a successful program or not). Still, some consumers (the more sceptical ones) will criticize each CSR event/program as soon as they watch some news, view an Ad or detect a Logo or a Flash in a pack. This happens because they believe that there is more money invested in communicating the program than the real impact of it. If you think like this, please keep in mind the following facts the next time you analyze a CSR program:

  • If a company tries to be CSR and avoid loosing money (business is not altruistic) in the process, they must have a sales jump to at least pay the program.
  • If a brand involves their consumers in the program, there will be more impact than if the program is “for employees only”
  • If a brand is more responsible than its counterpart, the consumer should be able to know / compare / prefer.

Other trends in business such as improved quality have developed “icons” or brands that give the consumer the comfort of awareness on the quality level of a product. ISO has developed several norms that dictate the award of such icons depending on the documentation, processes and repercussion of the programs. For example, ISO 9001-2000 is used as a quality program (and consumers around the world are able to differentiate through this icon “the quality” of the products being compared).

Although there are no certifications / icons to award a company (or its brands) for their holistic responsibility (whatever it is) ISO has also launched the norm (& award) 14.000 that certifies environmental standards. This is a first step towards CSR awareness, but it only includes ecological issues.

Nowadays there is a lot of buzz around a new norm ISO 26.000, but this is no really a typical “awardable” norm, it’s just a list of guidelines for companies to follow and “become responsible”, the problem still the same: “how to communicate it?”


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