Polaroid's Tommy Stadlen says get rid of the term CSR

Ogilvy and social good consultancy Good Scout teamed up for an event focused on CSR best practices.

Christopher Graves, global chairman Ogilvy PR Worldwide, interviews Tommy Stadlen
Christopher Graves, global chairman Ogilvy PR Worldwide, interviews Tommy Stadlen

The first Ogilvy-Good Scout partner event focused on best practices in corporate social responsibility. One idea threaded throughout the panel event Monday: CSR isn’t a department, it’s a way of doing business.

Keynote speaker Tommy Stadlen even urged the audience to "get rid of the term [CSR] completely and integrate it into the core of the business."

The event brought together panels from all sides of cause-driven campaigns, including the journalists who cover social good campaigns to the nonprofits that partner with corporations to the companies that build the campaigns.

Stadlen, who coauthored Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society and is the re-founder of Polaroid, discussed the best practices for fully integrating CSR into a business. He named four pillars: map your world, define your contribution, apply world-class management, and engage radically.

The first three pillars refer to building a business that integrates purpose in the business model, not just in short-term campaigns and isolated CSR departments. He encouraged transparency, a strong purpose in the business, and even retraining CEOs to focus more on the CSR aspect of their company.

"There has been a tidal wave of transparency," he said. "There’s so much value in putting everything out there."

The final pillar, engaging radically, is how companies communicate with their consumers and stakeholders. Stadlen said businesses should bring stakeholders into the fold and find new and creative ways to reach consumers.

Several of Stadlen’s pillars were exemplified by the other panelists. Karen Goldfeder of DoSomething.org said the site reaches 3 million of its 25-and-younger consumers via text message. New York Times columnist David Gelles works best when companies "open the kimono" and let him into the fold. And Rachel Peck of start-up Harry’s Grooming said they built the company with the goal of giving back from the start.

When it comes to engaging radically, Stadlen said, "If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not doing it right."

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