Corporate Social Responsibility – Do You Have To?

Which charity is the right one? Which cause deserves your company’s support? Which cause means the most to you and your employees? With 1.1 million 501 (c)(3) organizations in the U.S., the options are nearly endless. How does a business owner or CEO decide which organization to support with a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program? And with all of the pressure on executives to deliver constant and consistent profitability in a highly competitive global economy, should you even bother with a CSR?

As John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods puts it:

“The whole corporate social responsibility ideal is trying to graft something onto the old profit maximization model. What we need is a transformation [in] the way we think about business, what it’s based on. People want businesses to do good in the world. It’s that simple…. We need a deeper, fundamental reform in the essence of business.”

So, that’s it. Customers want to buy from companies who give back. If you want their business, you’d better incorporate CSR into your company. That’s even more true if you target the millenials. As a group, they weight their buying decisions more on whether companies give back to the communities, than their older counterparts. Yep, you need a CSR program.

CSR
Do the right thing. It’s good for business.

But how do you choose a program? Start by identifying what you and your employees passionate about. Which problems do you care most about solving? Then think about which charitable efforts make a good fit with your company’s business. If your organization publishes ebooks, perhaps look for a non-profit that helps teach people to read. Finding a cause that meshes with your company’s brand that also resonates with its audience is key. That may sound self serving, but I suggest that it’s beautiful enlightened self interest. As humans, we want make an impact. As marketers, we need to do that which creates the greatest impact. Good corporate social responsibility positively impacts us as humans and as marketers.

In her article, “How To Integrate Marketing With Your Corporate Social Responsibility Promise”, MarketingGreen blogger, Julie Livingston identifies 4 things to consider when integrating you marketing efforts with your CSR.

1. Is it meaningful and will it have a long-term, sustainable, positive impact on company stakeholders?

2. Does the CSR program draw upon company strengths and resources? For example, a waste management company that donates its resources and staff to developing a hometown recycling program.

3. Is it engaging for the stakeholders, and perhaps for the media? By the nature of its design does it tell the company story?

4. Does it make a positive difference to people and the planet?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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