Corporate-responsibility ‘mandates’ outlined

Laura McKnight
Laura McKnight

Corporate social responsibility works best when it is “genuine,” and should strive to be “true” to the company, a new white paper says.

Every successful corporate social responsibility strategy shares four basic “mandates,” says Demystifying Corporate Social Reponsibility: Four Key Steps to Success, by Laura McKnight, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

Those mandates are that corporate social responsibility, or CSR, should make sense for the business; resonate with target audiences to maximize the return on investment; be easy, inexpensive and streamlined; and publicize the company’s good work.

The success of a CSR program “depends much more on fit, authenticity and execution than uniqueness or clever packing,” the white paper says. “A corporate social responsibility program must reflect the values and soul of a the company.”

And it is okay for a CSR strategy “to boost the bottom line,” the report says. “After all, the first rule of corporate social responsibility is to stay in business in the first place.”

So a CSR program “must resonate, in order of priority, with employees, consumers and the community.”

The most successful CSRO programs “start at home, inside the company,” the report says.

And to know what its employees value, it says, a company “must ask the question.”

Consumers, the report says, “have to see it and feel it to believe it.”

And a company “must identify a point of consumer engagement that makes sense for the company.”
The report says many companies “stumble when they skip over employees and consumers and jump right into community needs and community perceptions.”

That “leapfrog approach,” it says, “drastically reduces the likelihood that the company’s program will achieve the resonance required to increase employee satisfaction and increase consumption.”

Only after it has identified “a cause that means something to employees and engages its consumers,” the report says, “should the company reach out to people and organizations in the community – whether that community is a city, state or country – that can make that cause come alive.”

Simplicity in a CSR program can be tough to accomplish, the white paper says.

Most companies “engage, at some level, in a handful of giving back activities,” it says, and “measuring the cost and effectiveness of disparate activities can be difficult.”

The best place to start is to get organized and keep things simple, typically through a “comprehensive inventory to address all areas of a company’s corporate giving and community activities.”

Finally, a company “must leverage its corporate social responsibility platform by adopting smart marketing and public relations strategies,” the report says. “But this comes only after the company develops a program that achieves the first three mandates of fit, return and simplicity.”

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