EDITORIAL: CSR value lies in public awareness

The most important finding from MORI's research on corporate social responsibility that we report this week is not that 74 per cent of respondents say a company's ethical record influences buying decisions. Important though that surely is, it merely adds weight to what was known already.

The key fact to emerge was that most people find out about corporations' community relations work not from PR or from expensive TV ads. They find out about these things by word of mouth.

This underlines the importance of properly thought-through and strategically aligned CSR work that does a lot more than skim the surface of responsible corporate behaviour.

Corporate donations, for example, are to be welcomed, but the fact an organisation hands over a hefty share of its pre-tax profit to worthy causes is no guarantee of a bullet-proof reputation. And there are plenty of organisations with strong reputations for ethical behaviour and robust governance that would fail by this crude measurement system.

What's needed to take this debate forward is not league tables of charitable giving, but a recognition that the breadth and depth of CSR involvement within an organisation, and a genuine ability to communicate that to stakeholders, are easily the most efficient drivers of CSR reputation.

It is for that reason that PRWeek is supporting the International Visual Communications Association's Clarion Awards for CSR communication. With cross-party support, these awards have the ability to entrench in corporate minds the notion that CSR is of great value. But for that value to be realised, people must know about it.

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