The CEV of CSR: Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns

3 Keys to Successful Corporate Social Responsibility“Doing well by doing good” is the common corporate social responsibility (CSR) cliché meant to describe successful businesses participating in community outreach and giving back meaningfully. In today’s business climate, consumers and organizations seek to connect with corporations that champion good causes and operate responsibly.

As a result of both demand and regulation, more businesses than ever are embracing transparency in operations, but that doesn’t mean that businesses are doing so efficiently. That’s important because while philanthropy should be inherently celebrated for its positive impact, CSR is often held to a higher standard by the shareholders and executives who want to see tangible proof of return on investment.

Three keys to creating value for the company by means of CSR are centrality, expertise, and visibility.

Centrality- Academic research and professional practice indicate that the more closely tied the business’s CSR program is to its core mission, or central, the more value it will provide the organization across all growth categories. By integrating social efforts with the company’s mission and vision, companies can put their brand in action and on display while contributing positively to the community.

Expertise- CSR efforts should be planned in a way that will reinforce company expertise and bolster brand identity in its core competencies. Studies show that CSR has a strong and direct impact on consumers’ attributions, brand evaluations and purchase intentions; through CSR, consumers, partners, and suppliers can see social-purpose initiatives providing reputational benefits. At the same time, companies that activate social campaigns in their core competencies benefit from economies of scale.  Shareholders and executives value programs that enable existing assets which minimizes costs and diversions to plan and carry them out, while simultaneously endearing to key audiences.

Visibility- CSR has been described as a “Catch 22” in that businesses are encouraged to perform responsibly but at the same time discouraged from over-promotion of activities. The perception is that that CSR messaging will detract from altruism and sincerity, lessening potential strategic benefits. However, visibility done correctly – by executing high-profile and high-impact campaigns – is a win for social causes, consumers, and active organizations as these initiatives attract attention and affect stakeholders naturally.

A great example of CSR integration can be seen in IBM’s Reinventing Education initiative. The company contributed financial resources, researchers, educational consultants and technology to support fundamental school restructuring and broad-based systemic change meant to raise student achievement. The campaign aligns with IBM’s mission, “Dedication to every client’s success.” “Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world.” “Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.” IBM, through this highly visible campaign, leveraged expertise and experience, providing systems solutions to educational clients to meet a broader educational challenge.

By making CSR a part of corporate strategy, companies can achieve the goal of creating both social value and corporate value. The better these organizations are at integrating CSR into their corporate strategy through centrality, expertise and visibility, the better they will do for their communities and their own brand equity.

One response to “The CEV of CSR: Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns”

  1. Mark Du Ree says:

    These words resound in the ears of anyone who has true input in a corporate SR program. One thing we had to do at my former company was to hire a certain percentage of disabled persons, who had been given government identifying paperwork indicating the points rec’d for hiring them. Our manager in charge, came to me one day with a plan to set up a bakery, hire more severe disabled people, and have them bake cookies! But, this couldn’t have been furthest from my goal. I wanted to not only hire more than the government requirement to hire disabled people, I wanted to change the perception of our employees, that people with certain disabilities could really, honestly, be productive members of our team, not hide them in a hole or a bakery unrelated to our business. I took it a step further, and in conjunction with a local university, we set up career based, real life instruction for students, with me as the professor, but taught by my senior team, including me. This was intended to help prevent the all too common situation of BA/BS grads being totally unprepared for the job market. Our task was to help them understand the job market and thus put effort into preparation for life instead of just cramming for exam after exam. Finally, corporate had and still does have a program called Win4Youth. The program accimplishes two disparate but very important social responsibility goals. First, employees are encouraged to participate in various running, biking and swimming activities, which of course improves their health. Then a tally is kept and for the kilometers the employees participated, and based on that participation real, significant, dollar value donations are donated to youth programs that are in need of funding. So, by participating, employees are not only getting healthy themselves, they are generating dollar donations for programs in need. A further benefit is that real teambuilding occurs as employees work together to help those less fortunate.

    Good blog! Looking forward to more of this caliber.

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