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Top 4 International CSR Insights for Fortune 500 Companies


By Pamela Hawley

For Fortune 500 companies wanting to make a difference in global corporate social responsibility (CSR), here are some tips on what to watch out for.

Congratulations on serving our global community. Your efforts will enhance your brand and employee commitment, while also serving nonprofits on the ground that deliver critical services in education, health, the environment and more. Best wishes as your company makes its unique, global impact.

1. Seamless, strategic community-relations planning

Seamless, strategic planning for your international corporate community-relations indicates that the domestic and international are tied to overall corporate strategic objectives. If your company doesn’t have a Strategic Plan and U.S.-based Community Relations Plan – those are the areas to start.

Make sure these two plans are wedded and practiced; lessons learned on the domestic scene can be applied to the international arena. Once these two areas are established, international community relations is a natural, albeit at times complex, expansion of planning.

2. The NGO nuance

Finding the right NGO nuance and NGO partner can take time – and it is not solely related to a common area of interest such as supporting education or the arts. Finding the NGO nuance takes it one step further, by identifying “on-the ground” partners and the right cultural synergy between the company and a particular NGO. These steps help ensure an effective working relationship.

Successful companies ensure that their community relations objectives incorporate the following areas: the greatest needs within the local community where the company is operating; how these needs fit their corporate objectives, both domestically and internationally; and the input of both U.S. and local, country-based employees.

In addition, identifying “on-the-ground” NGO partners provides community buy-in, and by working with an already established partner, more rapid and scaled results for the company. Alternatively, by not working with these partners, companies may cause damage in their efforts to establish long-term relationships. Finally, before agreeing to a partnership, the company spends time with the NGO – exploring the “NGO nuance” – to make sure there is a synergy and potential for a positive relationship.

Key areas to note are “hot spot” issues. Hot spot issues are issues critical to the community. Addressing these issues can win companies great favor and community standing. However, if these issues are volatile or cause community strife, they are often best times left for the local government to address. If your company is planning to stay in the community for decades, then such a commitment necessitates establishing long-term relationships with local governments and politicos. Through a multi-partner approach, these hot spot issues can be addressed.

3. Communication as a core principle

The companies which maintain effective community-relations practices and long-term relationships are the ones who commit to communications as a core principle of their efforts.

Communications must be frequent, multi-level and multi-partner inclusive. In addition, communications plans must take into account the following areas: international media outlets, cultural factors and perceptions which may arise. The type and tone of communications which are readily accepted within the United States are not always well-received outside of the U.S. Ensure that your communications team has the skills and experts to determine the right messaging and positioning applicable to each, unique local international effort.

4. Creative trust

Communication as a core principle allows you to set the groundwork for establishing long-term relationships. And that’s creative trust. Creative trust is built over time through frequent communications and actual execution with excellence. It’s in your company’s speaking and living: the message – what your company speaks – and in practice, how your company lives on the ground. A critical point in creative trust is it not only your company’s formal communications and events, but also the action of every person and employee who represents your company – and the company’s creative trust – in the day-to-day life of the community.

Image credit: Flickr/State Farm

Pamela Hawley is the Founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning nonprofit that connects volunteers and donors with quality service opportunities all over the world. She is a winner of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize in Community Service) and has been invited to three Social Innovation events at the White House. She also writes Living and Giving, a blog with the mission of “Inspiring Leaders to Live with Excellence and Love.” UniversalGiving Corporate helps companies manage and scale their Corporate Social Responsibility programs worldwide.

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