Spelling out CSR to Management

    Corporate social responsibility is commonplace in today’s business world. Companies like Target, for instance, promote their charitable giving almost as much as their products and Honeywell’s Hometown Solutions program has won multiple awards since its launch in 2003. However, even with positive results such as these, for some CSR can be a hard sell. 
Some companies feel that their private charitable work should be just that, private.  The product or service they provide should be the selling point of the company, not how much they may or may not give back. They feel no need to ‘toot their own horn’ by publicizing their benevolence. But CSR is a vital part of any successful business for five important reasons. 

Enhanced Reputation
While a desire to give back to the community at large is an oft-cited reason for CSR programs, reputation is a close second. In a highly competitive market, being known for a quality product or service is not enough. But, if your company is aligned with charitable efforts in the community, it makes it stand out all the more. For instance, a car dealership that donates a certain number of vehicles a year to Cars for Courage will hold much more clout with consumers than one that does not, as it will be seen as being in business for more than just profits. 

Employee Attraction/Retention
Working for a company that gives back becomes a source of pride for employees. Volunteering not only supports worthy causes, but also enhances company culture and community while letting employees see firsthand the good work their company does.
Prospective employees, particularly younger generations, are asking about how employers get involved in the life of their communities. Salaries and benefits remain number one for job seekers, but when everything is equal, a good CSR program can tip the scales for prospective employees.  The pride and camaraderie gained by giving back can also make the decision to leave a company more difficult. 

Employee Development
Skills learned while volunteering might not be skills learned in the corporate environment. Companies that provide opportunities for their employees to get out of the office and give of their time and talents are providing more than a service to the community; they are providing valuable life skills to those who volunteer. These skills can then translate back into the workplace to increase productivity as well as morale.
Leadership opportunities abound in volunteer work, and can be especially rewarding for someone with a position that does not afford opportunities for leadership.  Others may make business connections that help grow their employer’s company.

Customer Loyalty
There is no question that customers will be driven by the price and performance of a product or service, but they would prefer to give their business to companies that are involved in the community and which they perceive to possess a certain level of social responsibility. 
With this in mind, companies are giving a growing amount of attention to CSR, which customers and communities have come to expect. Communities want to provide a high quality of life, and in return, want a commitment from companies to do the same. 

Government Affinity
Never far from the minds of local, state and national policymakers is the extent to which a company gives back to its community. Government officials tend to act more favorably toward a company that gives back. Policymakers are customers and clients themselves. Additionally, the opinions of their constituents carry a great amount of weight when legislation is debated.
When you help share these reasons to your clients and prospects, selling CSR to management is not as hard as many think.  On top of the aforementioned reasons, a survey of clients, prospects, shareholders and employees regarding the importance of giving back to communities will help to assess its importance among these key audiences, as well as getting preliminary guidance on how to start designing a meaningful program.
Additionally, a budget for a formal CSR program is not just meant as ‘feel good’ dollars, it can end up affecting the bottom line and should be accounted for as part of the formal budget.  Management can understand the advantages of a CSR program; marketers just need to put it into terms they understand.

This article was written by Beth LaBreche is CEO of LaBreche, a Minneapolis-based reputation management firm. It was excerpted from the PR News Crisis Management Guidebook, Volume 2. To order a copy, visit the www.prnewsonline.com/store.