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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 agree with you Ben that there has been a noticeable shift with many organisations however there are equally as many cutting back on what they view as non core or profit making activities. Many of the business clients I deal with are either being made redundant or asked to deliver a CSR strategy on a shoe string budget.

Thankfully though there are still a few shining lights and I continue to take on and motivate new clients to act. I wonder if this would be the same if I didnt have a sweetner of funding to offer them?
Hopefully it's more than the funding Steve! Although I am 100% sure that helps. I really believe hightlighting the corp governance part of CSR is a bigger sell these days.

Astrid F.
PR is just an aspect of CSR. From my financial background and not my current role you can always tell the SME that will thrive and grow as CSR will be an embedded business process. Most literature seems to sell the concept on sustainability externally but to me CSR is about the business itself weathering the storm over its lifetime too and adapting to its environment and fostering its own sustainability.
Definitely Steve I agree with sustainability - CSR International has now replaced "social" with "sustainable" in CSR, which is needed, I believe on an industry scale. The business operations need to have flow inwardly before anything else. From the inception, the external requirement is transparency. I have a financial background as well - in corporate credit risk mgt. no less, and quite truly the first tell tale signs of trouble are not necessarily the financials, but management's attitude and their focus (or lack thereof!).
Tangible business benefits are ultimately realized through operational efficiencies (CSR strategy) and effective communications (CSR communications), through PR, advertising, brand, online and other ways to bring the benefits to the consumer and other stakeholders. What is needed is an integrated CSR strategy and communications approach, that is aligned with brand identity and positioning, to effectively engage target stakeholders, especially consumers, and build brand trust, loyalty and affiliation. By working across a company's different functional areas, understanding and working within the commercial realities of a company, and making stakeholders key, CSR can strengthen and improve the businesses of companies.

CSR strategy development, which is informed by business objectives, market realities and stakeholder input, provides company direction for risk minimization, operational improvements and future growth. This strategy should be informed by and aligned with brand identity and positioning that helps position the company to stand as a responsible and leading corporate citizen – thereby building brand trust, loyalty and affiliation.

CSR communication strategies positively engage stakeholders, specifically consumers, and create on-going dialogue and interaction with the company. This engagement is in turn used to continuously inform strategy, refine brand identity and positioning, and propel continuous improvements creating a cycle of CSR leadership and business benefits.

This integrated approach provides companies with tangible benefits targeted at their own and their stakeholders' commercial, social and environmental needs as well as the methodology to continuously improve their business, ensure CSR leadership and business benefits, and strengthen brand trust and value – now and in the future.
Thanks for the reply and the wealth of information Susanta. For an integrated approach, a company developing/practicing a sound corporate governance approach should use PR completely for transparency exposure. For example, company X became ISO compliant and enforced such, then effective PR would follow with press release etc. with factual statements, not the "spin" that we get these days!

By the way, you do very fine work in documentary. I find that the visual media needs to do more to showcase the actual positive results from companies and individuals alike in terms of corporate governance, sustainable development, and positive breakthroughs in general. I hope you continue to keep us abreast of the latest and greatest in the field.
A long time ago the perfume Arpege developed the slogan "Tell her anything but give her Arpege" which became sort of a metaphor for the cruder cliche "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit". I've seen some CSR reports with lots of pretty pictures and all kinds of statements about how the company treats its employees like family members but no substantive information on what they are actually doing. If that is what SMEs in the Caribbean are doing, they must be following the example of the larger companies in the US.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) gets more down to brass tacks requiring discussions of what a company is actually doing but the requirements are so detailed that only large corporations have the resources to write good GRI reports.
Thanks for the response Ronald. I love the metaphor and it's true of our society in general, and to date baffling with bs has worked, hasn't it? But for the short term - now with industries and markets crumbling, the pretty pictures may not work as well as in the past.

The thing is, reporting for both SME's and corporations while necessary, could get cumbersome. We need to find a way where there is more a reporting flow. Sort of how social media and information in general is becoming more flow than "lump sum."
First off on Sustanta's comments about integrated policy whilst I agree an organisation can achieve more by integrating its policy I prefer to think of it as focussing its efforts ie each area of the business being aware of how this impacts on them and what they can achieve. My reasoning for this is my key work area istransport and as we can all appreciate its carbon impact. However from a company point of view if you were to integrate this with higher profile issues such as Ethical procurment etc then transport wouldnt even get a look in.

On the aspect of reporting though the first hurdle to overcome is a recognised standard measurement tool or its just a case of "lies damned lies and statistics". I get to to review reports on a daily basis and when you start interogating the comparative data in subsequent years it makes a mockery of the whole report.
You don't need to report to improve CSR performance, but there's some truth in the adage "what gets measured gets done". Even having a couple of metrics that you can communicate to key stakeholders (staff, customers, NGOs etc) can boost the credibility of a CSR programme, and motivate individuals to contribute to an initiative (ie, they see it's not just nice words, but that some change is actually happening).
this is a very important discussion.They do overlap and can be mutually inclusive.
There certainly is a lot of confusion in industry about CSR. As a result this is not developed a s a integrated or structured programme to be completed or achieved over a period with sustained efforts and credible inputs for sustainable development. This can be inward,for staff, outward for marketing and social for community development.This can be designed with vision for truly a sustainable.
Because it is ill understood (For various reasons)by corporates it fails to achieve the targets(Imaginary).Pr Takes it over to 'greenwash' it .

Ideally A well designed and well executed CSR can form core of PR efforts.

Companies and society at large deserves to gain a lot more from CSR.

Fragmented and ill directed CSR is colossal waste of money and efforts.
Thank you for responding Dr. Naravan:

I agree that poor CSR is a waste of effort. To further that poor CSR = a poorly run company that loses it's true competitive/collaborative edge.

Astrid F.


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