Corporate Social Responsibility / Ethics

Why should businesses have a CSR strategy?

What can corporate social responsibility (CSR) provide for businesses in the society? Well, according to Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans in ‘Exploring Public Relations”, it can define the responsibility an organisation has to its society/-ies and stakeholders, and help them plan and manage the relationship to secure long-term commitment and stability.

Tench and Yeomans also stated that when evaluating CSR, there are three stages a business could impact its environment. This range from basic, whereas it pays taxes, observes the law and deals fairly. Secondly, the organisational, in which it minimise negative effects and act in spite of the law. Thirdly, the societal, whereas the business is being responsibly for a healthy society in one way or another, and help remove problems in the society. Most organisations are within level one or two, but there are also some that operates in the societal level.

Despite of this, the quarterly survey “Grayling PULSE”, developed by the global communication corporation Grayling to monitor worldwide in-house communications professionals CSR efforts, has recently presented some unexceptional results. The report showed that most organisations only allocate 10% of their overall communications budget to CSR communications. Furthermore, merely half of the organisations believed their media are interested in covering CSR issues. Last, but not least, only 15% of the organisations had a fully developed CSR/sustainability strategy, whereas 26% did not have an official strategy at all.

These are quite unforeseen results, in my opinion, as for many businesses. CSR is generally contributing to enhancing corporate image and reputation. For a business, having a good reputation will make others be more willing to consider its point of view, it will strengthen the information structure with society and therefore improve resources, in addition to that it will enhance and add value to the business’ products and services.

Skjermbilde 2013-04-09 kl. 15.59.05

Source: Grayling PULSE Report Spring 2013

However, the report also suggested that a large part of the businesses that participated in the PULSE survey did had some sort of CSR strategy, and that this strategy is being increasingly used as a fundamental piece of their business strategy. This can be evident in that 30,1% of the organisations perceived CSR and sustainability as having the greatest impact on corporate reputation (as you can see in the image to the left). Hopefully, this would contribute to more organisations placing themselves in the third level, the societal stage.

In my opinion, a business would merely benefit from developing a CSR strategy, and this could also increase the perception of the PR department within the organisation. Organisations that ignore their operational environment are often susceptible to restrictive legislation and regulation, which can result in their stakeholders diminishing.

Paul Holmes, an expert commentator on the report, stated that the CEO must insist on PR and CSR working closely together, as all communicators within a business should make sure that internal and external stakeholders are kept informed and up-to-date about the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility, which is something I completely agree with (read the rest of the comment and other expert opinions here). With these global surveys, preferably more organisations will understand the importance of a strong, well-thought CSR strategy for long-term investment and success. Overall, it will be a win-win situation.

Do you perceive having a CSR strategy essential for most businesses?

– Maria

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