As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is increasingly drifting from its moral and ethical base, I have proposed a checklist for communicators to use when reviewing the validity of CSR strategies.
The historic reason for CSR activities being developed by organizations was recognition of their role in society. From the 1950s onwards, forward-looking businesses accepted that their purpose was not only to make a profit but did so in order to improve society.
“CSR” is now frequently used as a marketing ploy with little relationship to “doing good”. It’s becoming another form of ‘greenwashing’ where a patina of social engagement is wrapped around product and service marketing. Even the graphic symbols of CSR frequently show the world being saved and green shoots rising from coins, which are gross over-statements.
The 10-point checklist calls on communicators and executives to ensure that motives for CSR are clear and honorable; that policies and activities are created by consultation; that there is a commitment to CSR, not just a short-term advantage; and resources are in place, along with governance, to make sure policies stay on track.
• Motives? Is something being hidden?
• Dialogue before CSR policies are announced?
• Employees and other stakeholders involved?
• Long-term commitment or short-term advantage?
• Mutually beneficial outcomes or ‘licence to operate’?
• Resources to implement?
• Senior management “owns” the policies? Or a functional task?
• CSR governance structure?
• How will ‘value’ and ‘benefit’ be assessed?
• Is the policy ethical? Can you live with it?
CSR, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability are valuable concepts and actions that bring business closer to society. I hope the checklist will aid formation of CSR actions that benefit everyone – management, employees and communities.
The checklist was launched at the Middle East Public Relations Association Symposium in Dubai on March 20 and will be presented in Australia at a public lecture to be held at Macquarie University on Thursday April 10.