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Ogilvy Says Corporate Responsibility PR Can’t Wait

Businesses shouldn’t wait for world leaders to decide on climate-change legislation before driving their own sustainability goals, according to a new guide from Cranfield University and Ogilvy PR Worldwide, reports Marketing Week. They need to decide this year how and where they will invest in sustainable activities, says Ogilvy.

The guide, “The Strategic Importance of Communicating Corporate Responsibility” (PDF), shares best practices through real-world case studies and provides advice on how to make corporate responsibility (CR) communications work, which includes discussing difficult issues and working to resolve them.

As an example cited in the guide, when BP aimed to reposition itself as an oil company that looks “Beyond petroleum,” the company developed a strategy that involved extensive internal and external communications. This strategy transformed BP into the most admired/trusted oil business within months.

However, a series of safety failures tested BP’s corporate responsibility, resulting in a more modest communications campaign, indicating the problems of transforming an oil company into a sustainable leader, according to the report.

Ogilvy says if businesses can communicate corporate responsibility progress as well as problems with the same levels of transparency and consistency, they are more likely to engage key stakeholders and maintain their corporate reputation.

The report also recommends that a commitment to sustainability has to become part of a company’s core business activity, and communicating corporate responsibility a key business imperative.

CR communications also should not be undervalued. It can help businesses establish an industry leadership position, launch a new brand or product, penetrate a new market and get an edge over competitors, while transforming a company’s reputation and earning customer loyalty and employee commitment, according to the report.

The article cites several big brands that have been recently attacked or boycotted due to alleged corporate responsibility failings including Nestle and palm oil, Crédit Agricole and its “green bank” reference and Shell’s misleading claims over the company’s investment in green technology.

Other examples include Cadbury and Unilever, which also experienced issues with the use of palm oil, and big brand shoe companies including Adidas and Reebok that were forced to change their leather sourcing strategies.

Help is on the way in the UK to help businesses avoid greenwashing. The government is currently reviewing its Green Claims Code, and will establish a new rule to stop marketers exaggerating the environmental claims of their products, reports Marketing Week.

In the US, the FTC has rules that govern the use of environmental marketing claims. A new FTC Green Guide is currently under development.

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