What do you want your business to be known for? When people hear your company's name, what image comes to mind? When people hear Coca-Cola, they immediately think of an ice-cold, refreshing drink. McDonald's, those delicious french fries. Wal-Mart, affordable prices for everything. Nike, great sneakers. These are obviously tied to the well-known brands of those companies, but from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) perspective, what should people think? Education? Recycling? Providing access to clean water? Alleviating poverty or homelessness?
CSR is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense, too. In 2007, Fleishman-Hillard and the National Consumers League put out their second “Rethinking Corporate Social Responsibility Study.” It revealed that Americans expect corporations to be engaged in their communities in ways that go beyond just making financial contributions.
The survey also found that consumers are more likely to be loyal to a company that is well-known for being socially responsible than to one that offers a lower price or shares their values. No longer can businesses work in silos where they separate themselves from their people or the communities they serve. These days, consumers look at businesses beyond their brands to the impacts on the communities where they operate and the people they employ.
Obviously, the “cause” should be aligned with your business goals and objectives. So let's take a look at the aforementioned corporations and match them up with some of their CSR initiative areas: Coca-Cola – education, environment and healthy, active lifestyle initiatives; McDonald's – Ronald McDonald House Charities; Wal-Mart –education, military support, and disaster relief; Nike – responsible, sustainable supply chain.
To make a difference in the CSR space, you should identify an area that supports your business; create win-win partnerships with credible organizations that make sense; leverage your employees with company-sponsored community service projects; and stay the course by sticking with the area you've claimed and making the most positive impact possible.
CSR is not only good for the community, but it also is good for your bottom line.
Lori George Billingsley is director of community and multicultural communications for Coca-Cola North America. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.