Can Corporate Social Responsibility Really Matter? Really?

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The ever-famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world,’ is fairly apt for businesses these days. In fact, coming to think of it…last year Gandhi’s quote must have hit home for some companies as we saw a sudden explosion of CSR initiatives from companies who feel the need to ‘give back to society,’ as Bill Gates would put it. 

Having said that, January is always a good month to reflect on the previous year and quantify the movement of trends that are expected for the year ahead.

As we reported last year, CSR can affect staff, consumers, suppliers, investors, governments and the public. According to the Landor et al survey, roughly 60 per cent of US adults say ‘knowing a company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society makes me more likely to buy its products and services.’ The survey measured consumer perceptions of CSR practices and ranked companies that are the most responsible.

 It further revealed that, despite the recession, 75 per cent of consumers believe social responsibility is important, and 55 per cent of consumers say they would choose a product that supports a particular cause over similar products that don’t.

After that, it seems that firms began taking care of the environment – well most of them – (not pointing any fingers at BP’s oil spill, which now has an iPhone App).

But back to my original point, companies are giving back to society, and for a vast range of reasons. Campbell, for example, moved ahead with CSR campaigns and received a Gold Medal Award, which represents one of the industry’s highest honours.

 So what exactly did the soup company do? Well, after being around for many decades, the company created five community gardens and spearheaded a ‘nourishing’ program that now addresses health issues – such as obesity – among children.

Essentially, Campbell was just one of the many companies that sought to ‘give back to society’ and was rewarded for it.

Then later in 2010, as CSR became more mainstream, companies like Cisco and Kraft created ‘social media communities,’ to help when creating activities and initiatives.

In November when Cisco released its online ‘social media playbook,’ employees and customers got the opportunity to understand social practices while contributing to the environment.

Similarly, Kraft launched its own initiative that includes customised recipe applications for iPad, which encourages children and parents to create a meal together.  How much fun is that?

 And as the year came to a close, more CSR reports were released and helping the society became a sudden priority.

Now this begs the question- what’s in store for 2011? Are companies going to continue to develop CSR Strategies? The answer is probably yes but that leads to a more important question – Why? Do companies simply see CSR as an effective marketing tool or do they really feel they have a civic responsibility? Will we expect to see professionals emerging who can further develop networking opportunities to balance sustainability efforts and social media and how are companies going handle the demands of this new innovative business technique?

Moving forward, it’s not that difficult to predict the future of CSR.

If a company is contributing to the growth of a society and its customers are continuing to have faith in a brand then…we got ourselves a win-win situation here!

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