How To…Communicate Your CSR Commitments

In the past, a few watchdogs may have kept close tabs on an organization; today that number has skyrocketed, with social networks monitoring, discussing and questioning the motives of deep-pocket companies that claim to be committed to socially responsible causes.

There's nowhere to hide, and that's a good thing in a triple-bottom line era in which companies believe they can have a thriving business while also doing good in the community and for planet Earth. In fact, linking the three may create a sustainable business that best delivers long-term shareholder value. The emerging concept of purpose-based branding also aligns with this idea.

Many organizations, however, struggle to balance social imperatives with business reality. The marketing department may rush to sell a green product even while the operations unit scrambles to source or certify its ingredients. Later, when it is discovered that claims made for the product cannot be supported, credibility disappears for the company, and for marketers in general. This is one reason the Federal Trade Commission is revising its green marketing guidelines--first issued more than 20 years ago.

Situations like this fuel skeptics, blow through the blogosphere and color press perceptions. Since corporate brand equity is hard to build and easy to lose, can you really afford to communicate your social initiatives without bulletproof support? Of course not.

Here are 10 steps to communicate CSR initiatives to your stakeholders: