The paradox of communicating CSR: Time to refocus

Many companies try to improve their image by communicating their involvement in socially responsible activities. This often arouses scepticism rather than achieving the intended goal. Greta Thunberg conveyed it most eloquently: “Blah, blah, blah”.

In this series, we explore ways to successfully manage the predicament.

Time to refocus

In post 1. ‘Reality check‘, we highlighted the reputational challenge that corporations face when communicating their socially responsible activities.  Let’s now take a short definitional excursion to introduce the core idea behind the most successful approaches.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) includes discretionary activities that are socially or ecologically beneficial.  However, their overall impact on the business is essentially neutral.

A broader and more useful concept is corporate citizenship.  It can be defined as the embodiment of visions and values consistent with those of the communities the company is part of.  It includes the way a business understands, considers, and accounts for economic, social, and environmental impacts in designing products and services, managing operations, and contributing to communities.

Corporate citizenship encompasses the objectives of conduct, governance and performance that drive business strategy to maximise returns for both shareholders and society.

The idea of corporate citizenship is more meaningful to stakeholders than the narrower CSR.  The focus of communication should change accordingly.

In post 3. ‘The learning curve’ we will home in on the interception between corporate citizenship, communication and reputation.

Richard Costa, director and head of corporate reporting at Ensemble Studio.