CSR now needs to earn its keep

Getting an urge to chop down a tree every time I pass a Body Shop outlet might not make me the best person to comment on corporate social responsibility, though as a partial defence I would claim it was an antipathy to the late Anita Roddick rather than the concept that fuelled the aversion.

Anthony Hilton
Anthony Hilton

In her defence there can be no doubt that she was an effective pioneer whose work brought home to the wider business world the gains to be made from adopting a credible stance on social issues. It is at least in part down to her that these days almost every company of note has CSR policies and programmes.

The intriguing question is how well will this spending survive the credit crunch, and in PR terms how will companies explain the cutbacks I suspect they will soon begin to make?

Some might question as bold the assumption that the programmes will come under pressure as companies feel the squeeze but too many people in this country have no experience of what happens in a recession and are perhaps still in denial about some of the likely impacts. When times get hard things that are nice to have get ditched in favour of things one needs.

On the consumer front there are now quite regular stories that tell how shoppers are shunning organic produce in supermarkets in favour of cheaper options and how they are trading down from branded to own-label goods. Similarly, while support for policies on climate change remains strong, people are becoming more reluctant to agree to anything that is likely to cost them more money - which is almost everything.

It is only a matter of time before finance directors demand economies from line managers in businesses across the land - and they most likely will look first to see what will be cut without damaging the fabric of the business. And this will be the test for CSR programmes.

If companies have seen these as predominantly a PR exercise then the cuts will come. If companies believe CSR is part of what a company should do to maintain its licence to operate then they should survive.

By their actions shall they be judged.

 

Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London's Evening Standard

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.