A Look at 3 Winning CSR Trends

At PR News we’re getting ready for the CSR Awards luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 17, so we’ve been steeped in successful green, sustainability and community outreach campaigns. The work organizations and agencies are doing in these areas is good stuff, and always leads to a common question: How do these campaigns impact the bottom line and affect brand loyalty?

Recent public opinion research on “green” is mixed at best. In late March Cone released data showing that reported that 8 in 10 Americans don’t believe companies are addressing all of their environmental impacts, and just 44% trust companies’ green claims (PRN 4/2/2012 issue). Then on April 5, a Gfk MRI study found that while 65% of Americans agree with the statement that “preserving the environment is very important,” just 31% of adults purchased green household products in the last 12 months. So while U.S. consumers may think and talk green, they do not necessarily walk the green walk.

Yet organizations keep plugging away with innovative CSR campaigns—backed by extensive communications efforts—secure in the belief that in the long run (and when the economy swings back) they will pay off with brand loyalty from consumers. In looking at our CSR Awards finalists, I find some common CSR trends and threads:

Transparency: Most brands believe honesty is the best CSR policy. Paper company Domtar, for example, developed a tool that gives stakeholders the environmental skinny on each of its products, allowing potential customers to see the exact green impact of purchases.
Employee volunteerism: More and more, organizations are linking internal communications with CSR efforts. Take health insurer Wellpoint, which rallied 4,000 employee volunteers on April 30, 2011, to build gardens, paint classrooms and sort thousands of pounds of food and medical supplies for shipment overseas.
More CSR partnerships: Companies are realizing they can’t do CSR programs on their own. In 2011 Toys “R” Us teamed up with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to fight childhood cancer, and there are many more corporate partnerships with nonprofits, NGOs and community groups where that came from.

Bottom line: I’ve got CSR on the brain, and so does corporate America. However difficult it may be to win trust from consumers, the positive effect CSR programs are having on the environment and in communities is indisputable.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01