Let me begin by making a confession: as a rookie to the world of corporate communications, I was at first surprised to hear the emphasis on corporate social responsibility . But as I have put my CSR hat on, aside from the headspin with all the buzzwords (CSR? Social Responsibility? Sustainability? Philanthropy? Corporate Citizenship?… Gaah!), one interesting finding has emerged from conversations on the subject with executives around the world:
Communicators have for long focused on CSR rankings and reporting as the finish line, aiming to be portrayed as good corporate citizens, but they are losing the connection of CSR efforts to company performance.
Now, we are not suggesting that you stop reporting, but we also hear many communicators lament that all the hours spent on creating CSR reports don’t bring the desired results in engaging with both internal and external stakeholders. In trying to be all things to all stakeholders, reports often lose sight of how the company’s social responsibility efforts fit into its overall strategy.
We think a better approach, and one that we see emerging among leading communicators, is to focus the organization around a few, select opportunities that create shared value for both the business and society. Thus, Communications becomes a facilitator to integrating CSR strategy into business operations.
We have already blogged about how Nestle creates a shared value model , and next week CEC members will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from Nestle how they make it work . Below are a few other interesting examples of companies that are on the path to aligning their corporate responsibility efforts to core business advantages, thus adding shared value:
- Bausch+Lomb have partnered with Lions Club International Foundation to create the Bausch+Lomb Early Vision Institute that will focus on the treatment and prevention of pediatric cataract. As the website states “The Early Vision Institute joins two other major areas of social investment supported by Bausch + Lomb – community outreach (in its major centers of operation) and employee volunteerism,” unifying the company’s efforts around a core area of expertise to create shared value.
- Novo Nordisk creates shared value through its diabetes initiatives, the Novo Nordisk World Diabetes Foundation and the Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation dedicated to supporting diabetes research. As Novo Nordisk specializes in diabetes products, this is a smart way of focusing the company’s CSR efforts around its area of expertise, as the knowledge created through research also helps improve its products.
- Starbucks also aligns its social responsibility strategy around a shared value theme with its Shared Planet initiatives, which focuses on: building greener stores, protecting clean water resources, and creating sustainable coffee production. These are good for the planet, but also benefit Starbucks’s business itself, as the quality of its product depend on good, clean water and a steady, long-term supply of coffee beans.
What are you doing to drive shared value around your CSR initiatives? Please send us your thoughts and comments. Also, take a look at the Council’s upcoming CSR diagnostics, tactics, and webinars.