By Anna Johansson
Everywhere you look, the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is taking off. Small businesses and multi-national corporations alike are getting involved, and it’s easy to feel like the business world is finally moving in the right direction. But what’s really happening beneath the surface?
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with pursuing CSR out of marketplace demand, this hollow foundation often creates issues. When you look past mission statements, core values, and well-crafted quotes from company executives, it becomes clear that many (not all) CSR strategies are nothing more than facades for otherwise standard business activities.
Sometimes this is unintentional and other times it’s meant to serve as a distraction. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that most companies with faulty CSR strategies fall under the “unintentional” umbrella. In these cases, one of the primary culprits is a lack of involvement from executive leadership.
“Although numerous surveys have touted the increased involvement of CEOs in CSR, we have found that CSR programs are often initiated and run in an uncoordinated way by a variety of internal managers, frequently without the active engagement of the CEO,” says V. Kasturi Rangan, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School and cofounder of the HBS Social Enterprise initiative. This leads to confusion and fragmented decision making that tends to wilt under pressure.
Another common reason some CSR strategies end up being hollow is because the majority of the focus is on public relations and marketing. Many companies are so focused on making sure that their CSR strategy reflects well on the brand publicly that they don’t have enough time and resources to actually live up to their claims.
In order for businesses to practice what they preach and make CSR about more than PR and marketing, it takes a concerted effort from every decision maker within the organization. To paint a practical picture of what it looks like to put CSR first behind the scenes, let’s look at some examples of things businesses can do.
Get out of the office and go somewhere unique. Give some sort of adventurous team-building activity a try – such as zip lining or perhaps rock climbing – and use it as a springboard for brainstorming ideas and getting the all-important employee buy-in. Once employees are on board, the higher ups can proceed with crafting a balanced strategy.
When businesses shift their focuses outwards, suddenly, CSR becomes less of a PR agenda and more of a push for making the world a better place. It’s anything but easy, but the right mindset precedes the right action.
Image credit: Pixabay
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.