Once upon a time, a brand that demonstrated CSR could stand apart from its peers. But has the market become too crowded? We ask the experts:
Sara Tye, founder, Redhead PR
“Of course there is still advantage in displaying CSR, but it’s not about CSR washing or PR (although this is important), it’s about running your business or organisation better and ensuring CSR is integral.
It’s about the best use of resources and not abusing your power on any level. It’s about sustainability. CSR, if environmental, will be intrinsically linked to Human Rights, whether that be the workforce or the people that are affected by the organisation and its actions. McDonalds is a good example.
In any sensible business, the board should be helping to drive CSR. It affects the bottom line if done correctly. Charity support motivates, thinking about the local community will help recruitment, the environment makes things sustainable and giving the consumer a better choice will in the end supply a known demand, which can be seen in action with fair trade and organic brands such as Green & Black’s.
I can’t see how there’s any such thing as a ‘less authentically responsible’ brand: companies and organisations that lie will be found out, and companies that only act sustainably for reputation’s sake are still making a difference. But you can use great PR, integration with other marketing activities, direct consumer engagement, and of course word of mouth and social networking to distinguish your CSR activities from others.
The brands that really stand out in CSR are those that make sure it’s integral to their business. In The Body Shop it ran through every activity; Green & Black’s changed the chocolate bar industry; People Tree put ethical fashion on the map; and even utilities businesses such as Thames Water have changed the way we think about water. But it takes a long time.”