Corporate social responsibility is gaining in importance, especially for American companies, and leaders who don’t adopt CSR strategies risk getting left in the dust. There are three very good reasons why CSR strategies are more crucial than ever, according to Entrepreneur.
At the top of the list is corporate distrust. “Only 36% of Americans polled in a 2014 Corporate Perception Indicator survey said they viewed corporations as a source of economic hope,” Anna Johansson wrote. “The message: Publicly practicing social responsibility can be seen as a way to restore that trust.”
Number two: political concerns. Johansson points out that political polarization means political fence sitters are becoming fewer and farther between. At the same time, “activists in social justice, environmentalism and other causes are becoming increasingly aggressive in their beliefs,” she says. “CSR serves to appease those entrenched segments.”
The third main reason for pursuing CSR opportunities comes down to competition. Simply put, business leaders don’t want to be seen as out of touch. “Feeling competitive about your company’s CSR can certainly be seen as a good thing,” Johansson wrote.
She also highlights how several big companies are leading the way through CSR efforts. They include Duracell’s PowerForward program to help communities recover from natural disasters. The program distributes free batteries, charges mobile devices, and provides Internet access to those in need. Since 2011, the program has had 30 deployments in response to events like snowstorms, fires, and hurricanes. Last fall, the program distributed $1 million worth of batteries in Puerto Rico.
Disney also made Entrepreneur’s list for its detailed annual CSR report. Last year the company’s Disney Smart Packaging Initiative to create environmentally conscious product packaging won an Environmental Leader project award. One small change made to the Disney Princess box saved 15,000 pounds of paper and plastic annually and had a 35% reduction in carbon footprint per package, the company reported.
Touting social and environmental initiatives is one thing, but companies must focus on the actual effectiveness or risk alienating consumers. Millennials in particular tend to be skeptical about corporate motives. According to a Harris Poll last year, 40% of consumers said that companies are primarily motivated by the publicity possibilities of those initiatives.
“Fake it and consumers see right through your ulterior motives, risking negative marks against your corporate reputation,” Wendy Salomon, VP of reputation management and public affairs at the Harris Poll, cautioned at the time.
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