Afraid of CSR
Early on, Kellie told us that many companies are afraid to communicate about CSR. Yes, afraid. It did not make sense to me. Relative to other complexities around strategic CSR, communication seemed easy. Wouldn’t companies be leaping to describe their CSR initiatives to eager consumers?
I was skeptical of Kellie’s claim until I started working with a major US airline as our CSR client. As a loyal passenger, I thought I knew the airline extremely well. I was mystified to discover, however, that the company has a much more extensive CSR effort that I realized as a consumer. This airline has broad-reaching greening initiatives and is an incredible community champion, both actively as a corporation and via high rates of employee volunteerism. Its citizenship is something that I would expect the airline would proudly communicate via multiple possible channels – website, gate areas, hours of “air-time”, in-flight magazines, etc. However, the company shares little about CSR with its customers.
Herein we return to Kellie’s point – companies are AFRAID to communicate about CSR. The airline’s employees told us that they feel awkward speaking about CSR externally. They believe that social responsibility is part of their ethos, and feel that touting the efforts may detract from genuine intentions.
In contrast, companies do not feel guilty about openly striving for profitability, increasing revenue and growing market share. Yet communicating about citizenship, which can lead to the above positive results, is very uncomfortable. Companies are scared that by communicating about CSR, they will be attacked for what they are NOT doing or have their motives questioned.
Nonetheless, we hope to assist our client in developing genuine, innovative methods to communicate about its CSR. We see CSR as a way to connect with passengers, enhance loyalty, and promote the brand. Furthermore, an active CSR communications strategy can make social responsibility more sustainable and ingrained in the company. Consumers are not going to know something unless companies tell them, so its time good corporate citizens started communicating about their CSR and capturing value for their hard work.