By taking a stand on a particular ethical or environmental issue, there is a natural fear that the organisation is 'raising its head above the parapet' and inviting the media or pressure groups to take pot-shots.
This is true of course - and, arguably, fair enough. A journalist will get far more excited about General Motors lobbying against greenhouse gas controls if it also happens to be running an ad campaign promoting a 'green' car.
So should firms simply steer clear of taking leadership on such issues? No - but they do need to show consistency of behaviour across all their activities, from environmental or diversity policies right through to high-level public affairs and lobbying.
This is well highlighted in a new report called 'Influencing Power' (News, p1).
SustainAbility and the pressure group WWF identify 'inconsistent' approaches to corporate lobbying - saying different things to different people via different parties - and argues this is ultimately untenable if these companies seek genuine trust from stakeholder groups.
For example, GlaxoSmithKline may use its CR report to communicate excellent work on access policies to essential drugs in developing countries, but it is also a member of lobbying body PhRMA, whose position on intellectual property rights is strongly criticised by HIV/Aids policy experts.
What we learn is that the CR debate has moved on, and continues to accelerate.
Where once CR was seen as one of many PR tools, it is increasingly being recognised as a way of managing overall reputation among a broad array of stakeholders.
And looking forward, those companies that can align all their activities to certain ethical standards - even the cloak and dagger area of lobbying - will gain a significant strategic edge over their competitors.