CSR Studies Confound, But Cautionary Tale is Crystal Clear

You’ve probably noticed that we cover a lot of studies that have a PR connection for our Quick Study section in PR News. I find that some of these studies’ findings not only overlap but sometimes contradict each other, depending on the company who is sponsoring the research. One area that often confounds me is CSR. I’ve read that executives feel that CSR is critical to achieving business goals; I’ve read that CSR isn’t really high on CEO agendas; I’ve read that shoppers are willing to pay for products if they feel like they are contributing to saving the environment—except in a bad economy.

Pretty confusing, to say the least. Yesterday though there was an article (subscriber access only) in The Wall Street Journal that at least made the challenges of CSR crystal clear. It told the story of Aveda and its CSR connection with the Yawanawá tribe in the Amazon. The Journal bills it as a “cautionary tale about the enormous cultural and logistical obstacles that can prevent such link ups from functioning as advertised.” Cautionary indeed. The story really drives home the fact that there’s a fine line between “doing good” and exploiting the very people you’re supposed to be helping. It’s a fascinating piece, and PR and CSR practitioners should read it.

–Scott Van Camp