Staff Reporters
Jul 23, 2013

Sustained commitment the test of CSR

MARKETERS FORUM: With the rising popularity of cause-driven advertising, everyone has a reason for giving. But what makes a CSR campaign authentic and what is just commercial greenwashing?

CW from top left:Mercado, Ng, Gupta, Scanlon, Chong, Rach
CW from top left:Mercado, Ng, Gupta, Scanlon, Chong, Rach

Paolo Mercado
Head of marketing and comms

A CSR campaign is authentic when it is part of a company’s normal way of doing business and not simply a project for publicity. At Nestlé, sustainable practices is essential for long-term shared success.

All of our factories have clear environmental impact goals. We may not publicise these activities in big-budget ad campaigns, but we do them because it is the only way to ensure long-term shared success.

The challenge with superficial CSR campaigns is that it creates consumer cynicism, but if a company is truly authentic, then CSR cynicism should not affect the pursuit of true creating shared value.

If a company is authentic, it should support the activity even without getting media credit for it.

Virginia Ng
Senior marketing director

A CSR-driven campaign is more appreciated when the company shows its complete support of a chosen cause that answers a social need.

When a corporation puts mandatory requirements in its corporate framework to ensure that CSR activity is not neglected in the pure business of the day, then it shows its serious commitment.

For example, KFC have been supporting the Singapore Association for the Deaf since 2003. We have stayed focused on this niche area of society, helping to create opportunities for people with hearing disabilities.

This includes providing educational opportunities, tuitions, scholarships and even jobs at KFC. For us at KFC, this is a commitment we have made.

Anita Gupta
SVP, corporate comms and responsibility

There must be long-term commitment to a cause that naturally aligns with the organisation’s core principles and interests. This CSR strategy should be sustainable, credible and important to the national agenda of the implementing country.

On a global scale, there is increased pressure for companies to act responsibly. Many socially responsible campaigns are being aligned to short-term business objectives without thoughtful consideration given to building credible CSR partnerships and long-term funding of projects. This could damage brand value and credibility and lead to dissonance among internal and external stakeholders, which may lead to a crisis situation, and even impact share price.

Paul Scanlon
APAC head of marketing and corporate affairs

It has to be a lot more than providing financial grants and making donations. As an influential company, you have to use what is a truly privileged position for the benefit of others. For a company’s CSR efforts to be authentic it must first see its responsibility to society as fundamental to its own existence.

This belief should be reflected in everything you do, otherwise it will lack credibility and support among potential beneficiaries, employees and customers alike. It is especially important that your approach resonates with your own employees, because the causes have to inspire your staff to genuinely want to contribute and volunteer their time, over a sustained period. They will in turn inspire and encourage others.

Lena Chong
Marketing consultant
Wotwhere Media

I believe it is fundamental that CSR campaigns come first from a real intention to do good.
Of course, just about any aid, going to the needy, is good and I have worked on and seen many brands that can get very creative with their campaigns or spend a lot of money.

But the authenticity of a brand’s CSR initiative is judged in the long-term. Is it a one-off thing, or is it built into their ethos? Is the campaign in support of a real cause they believe in? Are they spending more money promoting it than providing to the needy? Do they care more about the attention they’re generating than the good they’re doing?

These are some questions that will be asked in judging their motives.

Sean Rach
Brand & Corporate Affairs
Prudential Corporation Asia

Those seeking to build their brands (goodwill equity) through social responsibility must ensure that their efforts are true to the personality, spirit and character of the company, otherwise efforts will backfire.

A brand needs to articulate what it does and what it stands for. While there is often “enlightened self-interest” involved, brands can generate a very positive impact through their investments back into their communities.

Our path led us to review the range of well-intentioned but disparate activities that were being supported and then, to define our intended outcomes so we can focus our efforts on areas where we have expertise and where there is an need.

Hallmarks of authentic CSR are seen in organisations that 1) have leadership support (ideally from the CEO directly), 2) engage a range of stakeholders including staff, NGOs, government agencies, and even customers, 3) demonstrate long-term commitment to programmes that have 4) measurable outcomes and (5) are effective in meeting the changing needs of communities.

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