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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Practical surveys and research have indicated that in many small and medium enterprises within the Caribbean, CSR is confused with PR and also strictly with corporate philanthropy.

What are your thoughts? Does CSR and public relations overlap, are they mutually exclusive?

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I can see how one can see some overlap, however in principle CSR is an outward looking initiative and PR is done as an inward looking initiative. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive but have very distinct roles in corporate world.
Thanks Ben for the info. I've found that many company's use the public relations aspect of corporate philanthropy as a means of proving Corporate Responsibility. I do think that CR is also internal (proper systems, supply chain etc) as opposed to the common misconception that CR is merely corporate giving.
Hi!

I would like to add that while CSR is about conducting your business in a sustainable way (with regards to people, planet and profit). CSR also contributes to positive PR strengthening the company´s relations capital.
Definitely Tomas. Once a company works internally on strong corporate governance, it gives naturally to public relations. What has happened in some instances is companies with weak corporate governance may tend to "spin" PR and corporate giving to hide their internal inconsistencies.
Yes, hence the term "greenwash" and what not. These types of practices most often lead to weaker relations for the company in the longrun. Worse, it also damages the credibility of the CSR movement.
Tomas: Can I ask what you mean by relations capital?
Matthew Rochte's information is outstanding and it really covers the greenwashing concept well. Thanks for the link Marcus. We have a lot of work to do here in the Latin American and Caribbean region on this concept. Almost 9 out of 10 individuals consider CSR = Corp. Philanthropy.
I think the idea that CSR is corporate philanthropy was quite widely held in the UK until about 5 years ago. Since then, the increased profile of climate change, coupled with the global financial crisis (which, I think it's fair to say, was largely down to there being too great a focus on an organisations short-term economic performance - rather than its longer-term sustainability) have shifted the focus of the debate.

Now, I believe that organisations are starting to think of CSR as investing in the initiatives and behaviours that support long-term sustainability (across the triple bottom line). This doesn't mean disposing of philanthropy altogether - but investing in the initiatives/charities that have an authentic connection to a company's core business.

As per my comments in the debate Marcus mentions above, PR and CSR are both ultimately connected to reputation - it's just PR tells people what you're doing, and CSR evidences (through behaviours and experiences) who and what you are as an organisation.

In my experience, Brazil does sustainability pretty well - might be worth looking to this region for some inspiration?

Best wishes,

Ben
Ben

Thank you for the response. It would be beneficial to export some UK CSR knowledge down to the West Indies on how CSR has evolved there (the UK).

In terms of Brazil, is it that a certain legislation was passed to encourage better CSR or Corp Governance practices, or it is purely a private sector initiative?

Thanks,

Astrid F.
Cool. There's an excellent article on corporate philanthropy, which I think is reprinted in the Harvard Business Review's book on Corporate Responsibility, that describes conditions for corporate giving that creates a win-win for the company and for society. That might be a good place to start?

You might also find our corporate responsibility whitepapers useful (largely linked to reporting), which are available in various bits of www.ry.com/publications

Do get in touch if you have further/specific questions about how things are in the UK - and I'll look out for further discussion post from you (in the event that I can be useful!).

Thanks

Ben
Ben

The www.ry.com site is really dynamic - it made me smile and I'll twit it. While we at Triumph are focusing on strengthening CSR via a more business continuity approach to corporate governance, my personal pet peeve is CSR and the media - be it Public Relations, or Mass Media not focusing on or giving air time to companies that have truly met what CSR at core should be. Something needs to be done with the reporting media of the world, but that is a separate discussion.

In terms of corporate reporting, say interim over annual, how do you then see social media such as Twitter playing a part?

Definitely keep in touch,

Astrid F.
Ha! Glad you liked the site.

Agree with your concerns about the media - but unfortunately, good news doesn't necesarily make the headlines or sell newspapers! Cranfield (a UK management school with a CR specialism) has just published an interesting paper on what responsible media looks like, which is really thought provoking - and, as I recall, it deals with some of your concerns around the ethical obligations of mass communications channels - and how they can help or hinder change.

Social media has a number of uses in the context of reporting, I think. Twitter can be useful to publicise your report and highlight key messages - ie, it's a route for getting people in to view the content in the first place. However, meaningful engagement can also be created through social media too.

Sites like Dell's IdeaStorm allow customers to harness social media and change Dell's products - it's a really effective stakeholder engagment mechanism (it shows the best, most popular customer ideas are being listened to), and it allows Dell to make a better product in the process.

In a reporting context, I think social media could also enable users to interrogate content and engage in dialogue with an organisation - this time, the benefit of social media is that organisations get a better idea of the type of content their stakeholders want to read about, etc.

Cheers!

Ben

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