Sowing with Purpose: A Unified Corporate Social Responsibility Approach Reaps Long-Term Benefits

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csr_globe.jpgAs companies and marketers continue to attempt to decode Cause Marketing in determining how best to incorporate it into their efforts, a new conundrum emerges. One that centers around Corporate Social Responsibility and the overall cultural philosophy of a company. For some, it becomes a separation of Church and State issue whereby cause-related activities do not have to be aligned with internal business practices, and are engaged as marketing tactics supporting charitable entities primarily to spur sales. Others believe that the two cannot exist without each other, and that Cause Marketing activities must be tightly integrated with a CSR-driven foundation.
Management consultant and CSR practitioner, Ari√© Moyal sheds some further light on this topic, and attempts to debunk the myths around Cause Marketing and corporate consciousness with an eye on implementing a sustainable strategy that extends beyond marketing, promotions, sales — and even profit.


How do you define Cause Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility? What do you think is the biggest difference between the two?
First, I think it’s important to differentiate between cause marketing and cause-related marketing.
Cause-related marketing is a marketing strategy which seeks to increase sales by promising to donate part of the revenue generated by the campaign to a specific cause. This usually results in large gains for the company while the cost of the donation is offset by the increased sales volume.
Cause marketing is more about the actual marketing of causes themselves, and is usually integral to a CSR model.
Corporate social responsibility is a management strategy in which a corporation takes into account its social and environmental impacts, and engages its stakeholders in order to ensure long-term sustainability. This involves proactive — and effective — resource management and risk mitigation.
If cause-related marketing is giving a man a fish then cause marketing as part of a CSR is teaching a man to fish. The latter obviously has the greatest long-term, sustainable impact.
Do you think that Cause-Related Marketing works in support of a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility platform?
I don’t think cause-related marketing works in any form. In fact, I think cause-related marketing can have adverse effects in making companies appear self-involved and disconnected from the cause they are using to drive their sales. Cause marketing, on the other hand, is an important part of the external aspect of CSR because it demonstrates real engagement of the company without making profit the main goal of the activity.
How does a CSR-driven company employ Cause Marketing? How does that differ from other companies engaging in cause-related marketing activties?
I believe that what works best for CSR-driven companies who want to raise money for causes they support is to really get involved in helping the non profits improve their operations and fundraising activities by offering time through employee-sponsored volunteering, their own expertise, as well as their contacts. This has a more beneficial impact than just writing a check, which is essentially what cause-related marketing ends up being with a disconnect from the heart of the cause.
What would you advise clients against doing as it relates to Cause Marketing?
I recommend that my clients stay away from causes that are not relevant to their stakeholders. You don’t want to alienate them or dilute the brand. Plus, it’s important that the causes are central to the company’s mission and business so that they can be active partners in change.
Can you give us an example of a socially responsible company with a tightly integrated Cause Marketing program? What are the components that make it successful?
While the Virgin Group, which runs airlines, and soon, a space tourism company, is not a perfect representative of a socially responsible company, their independent charity arm Virgin Unite is a great example of a company promoting causes by giving them a platform through which to raise funds, as well as helping them develop the tools to make what they do work best. All of Virgin Unite’s costs are underwritten by Virgin and Richard Branson.
What do you see as the main benefits of a CSR approach vs. a tactical Cause Marketing one?
Embracing CSR in totality means that you’ve taken an integrated approach in assuming your responsibilities, understand, support and respect your stakeholders, and are moving towards sustainable continuity. Cause-related marketing usually means you are focused on one thing: “Increased sales lead to increased profits” which is very short-term thinking.
What do you think is the biggest hurdle to adoption of an umbrella CSR strategy?
From my experience, the biggest hurdle is the initial time investment required to explore, define and implement the strategy. Most businesses don’t believe they have the time to look into it, much less make it happen. I try to identify some quick wins for my client right off the bat to make it an achievable option.
You are a management consultant focused mainly on a CSR model for business. What services do you offer? What types of companies typically engage your services?
I offer a holistic approach to business that starts with brand values, then aligns day to day processes and procedures with those values to ensure that the company is financially, socially and environmentally sustainable. CSR isn’t just about the environment or charitable causes. You need to remember your employees, direct and indirect, as well as the communities in which you operate. In fact, they’re probably the most important components of a well executed CSR plan.
My services range from high level assessment through to project management and implementation. I have worked with large financial services providers, NGOs and small to medium businesses in this capacity, tailoring the strategy to their individual operations and objectives.
What is your sustainable business philosophy?
I believe that in order for a business to be considered sustainable it must be active in reducing its environmental impact, engaging the people it affects on a daily basis in an ethical manner and remain an innovator with an eye on the future.
Are you seeing a greater consumer demand for doing business with socially responsible companies?
Yes. With all the activity surrounding climate change and ethical business practices, and due to the increased awareness of these important issues through information exchange and social media sharing, more and more consumers are looking for authentic socially responsible solutions. Consumers also want to feel as though they are doing their part by supporting companies committed to affecting positive change.
How does CSR impact internal and external business practices?
Being a holistic approach, it has many effects. Internally, CSR affects how information is transmitted (transparency), governance, staff engagement policies, travel and transport policies and facilities management, and to an extent, budget planning. Externally, it affects the choices of suppliers and subcontractors, marketing practices and community involvement. That’s just to name a few. But it doesn’t have to be complicated if it’s done right and well integrated — and supported — cross-functionally and operationally.
How do you measure the success of a successful CSR implementation? Do you find that it strengthens a company’s brand presence overall, and hence positively enhances each of their initiatives?
There are many ways to measure a successful implementation but no one indicator will give you the full picture. You can measure it by the reduction of carbon emissions, energy use and water use, as well as in time and cost savings. You can measure it by staff retention and satisfaction. You can even measure it through positive customer and media feedback. Each of these variables highlight different improvements toward quantifying the results of a company’s CSR activities. I do also strongly believe that a genuine undertaking towards social responsibility strengthens brand image and affinity, which is typically one of the most visible results.
Can you name some high profile socially responsible companies?
ANZ Banking Group under John McFarlane was a great example of a company dedicated to social responsibility, which I had the benefit of experiencing firsthand. BT is another good example. I suppose it’s easier for service providers because they have a lot less to manage logistically and operationally. But it’s not just about the big players. A lot of SMEs are working towards sustainability as well. When I lived in Melbourne, there were a few programs to help them do so. One was called Grow Me The Money , run by the Chamber of Commerce and industry with support from the EPA. Another, VIC 1000, a three-year pilot Sustainable Business Management Programme is handled through Village Green , an environmental consultancy.
Where does profit come in? Is there a standard revenue plan for a CSR company? (i.e. feeding a percentage back into social change initiatives et al)
Profit works the same as for any company. The ‘P word’ is not a dirty word and it is necessary for business continuity. Otherwise, there would be no point. CSR is there to help ensure continuity, and risk mitigation too. It’s not just a feel-good gesture. As for how much profit should go to support the causes, it depends on the company, how much else they are giving and what sort of funds or other materials they have collected. As I’ve said, money alone only goes so far. A company who really wants to help make a real difference donates time, expertise, contacts and support.
Do you think a company needs to start out with a socially responsible foundation, or is it possible to adopt a conscious approach later? How do you think that affects the brand?
I think that if you build a company on a CSR model you will have a responsive, innovative company that is set up for long-term success and sustainability. Since technology and business, as with most things, are constantly evolving, there will always be room for improvement but I think the foundation should be there from the start. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. It means that you have to at least make the commitment in all facets of your business, and keep working on it. That said, any time a company wants to make a move toward socially responsible practices, it is beneficial so modifying your approach later is possible as well — even if not ideal.
What advice do you have for businesses who want to put greater emphasis on CSR, or for those who want to put a more structured focus in place?
Start small. Find quick wins. Pool your resources. Tap your staff for ideas. Create an environment where they can share their knowledge and get involved, and you’re halfway there. Oh yeah, and hire me!

Striking a balance…

I believe that any time a company chooses to support a cause or engage in charitable activities — even if the impetus is, at times, profit-based — is a step in the right direction. The cause ultimately benefits, and increased sales lead to additional philanthropic programs. After all, money generated from a sales-driven campaign isn’t any less useful to the organization. But as Ari√© pointed out, most causes benefit even greater from a time investment and ongoing non-monetary support to keep their operations running smoothly. So, integrating your efforts under a unified CSR strategy is the optimal scenario, and one in which your company, employees, stakeholders, customers, causes, brand and planet all thrive. And that’s the bottom line.
If you want to reach Arié directly, you may email him at arie.moyal@blcubed.com.

Gennefer Gross is a writer, producer and co-founder of Gross Factor Productions, an independent film and television company focused on scripted comedy. An avid writer, author and idea cultivator, Gennefer thrives on creativity and contributes regularly to Triple Pundit on a variety of sustainable business topics. She also pens the popular series Hollywood & Green, exploring socially responsible cinema that helps connect consumers with important causes and environmental issues. And somehow she finds the time to write for her own blog, Tasty Beautiful, covering food and fashion in and around Los Angeles. Gennefer will also be launching Philanthrofoodie(TM), a charitable venture designed to spark social change through shared food experiences. An eternal student of life with an eclectic background, Gennefer brings unique insights on everything from breakthroughs in renewable energy to the latest dish in celebrity consciousness.