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How can corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs be used to promote brand images?

Warby Parker and Toms are doing an excellent job in promoting a great brand image by utilizing the "buy one, give one" business model. On the other hand, other companies are accused of "greenwashing" or "throwing pennies at the third world." How can corporate social responsibility (CSR) be used "right" to promote brand images even if it's not part of your business model?

5 Replies

Shingai Samudzi
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Shingai Samudzi Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO at ProjectVision
Authenticity is a key element of a successful CSR campaign or program, as are the channels through which the CSR is providing help. As an African, it gets pretty tiresome to see companies giving "1% of profits to provide X to children in YYY village in Africa!" particularly if the company's product really has nothing to do with that country or with the projects said profits are said to be funding. It just looks opportunistic, and even a bit paternalistic. Of course, if your view of Africa is just civil wars and starving children, it might sound noble. The biggest issue with these CSR campaigns that focus on first world saviourism in the global south is that there is poverty and violence on par right at home in the US or even Europe. If we can't effectively address the suffering of the less fortunate in our back yard, how effective really is any CSR aimed at helping people 1000's of miles away going to actually be?

You are better served by focusing CSR campaigns on:

1) Issues that are local to your company's community
2) Issues that are directly related to your product (for example, requiring X% of your suppliers be part of a Fair Trade program, or requiring suppliers to conform with certain recycling standards)
3) Issues that are meaningful to your consumers on more than just a "first world guilt" level
4) Programs that have a measurable impact on the well-being of a whole community (preferably local)
5) Programs that redirect a meaningful amount of money to help solve a problem (1% of profits for a company whose execs get $10M annual bonuses is not a meaningful amount, for example)
Jude Ower
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Jude Ower Advisor
Founder/CEO Playmob
Hi David,

Thanks for adding a really important question. This is the space we are devoted to and want to make it better. We believe that for effective CSR, it has to be customer and employee driven, not top down driven. The power has to be in the Brands stakeholders hand of where funds will go. Certain brands will align better to certain causes however for Brands that have a large demo range, allowing your customers to pick causes they wish to support will not only increase engagement with the Brand and the Cause, but also give insight into what your customers and employees care about.

We have been working in gaming so far and have expanded out to all actions online - turning online actions into offline social impact. Our pref is also to work with causes that have no more than a 30% overhead, so we can insure the biggest impact possible.

Happy to share more case studies and examples if your interest.

Thanks,

Jude

Tami Belt
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Tami Belt Advisor
Owner, Blue Cube Marketing Solutions
Business is about relationships. One of the best ways to build relationships is to connect by sharing a passion for a cause. This is why using CSR as a Marketing Strategy is very powerful.

Translating the mission, vision and values of your company into a customized community engagement strategy is the key to building lasting relationships. Capitalizing on them through a well-crafted communication strategy connects you with your clients, community and employees.

Research shows that companies who are involved in their communities:

o enjoy higher employee satisfaction and retention rates

o are viewed more favorably by customers

o increase market share from customers who switch brands to support a cause in which they believe

o help strengthen the community in which they serve, creating a betterplace to live, work and conduct business

o get more press coverage from what they do in the community than what they do as a company

LanVy Nguyen
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LanVy Nguyen Advisor
Founder & Managing Director at Fashion4Freedom
TOM went to Vietnam in 2014 to develop their bag line with a Chinese agent and bag maker who also retails in Vietnam. On behalf of TOM's production, the Chinese looked for the cheapest labor they could find and revealed that their conventional pay that they would agree to was a whopping 70,000 Dong ($3.44) a day. TOM's bag will retail somewhere just a little below $300 USD.

If you can do simple math, you can easily equate that this is nothing close to anything resembling responsible or socially mindful. If this is considered EXCELLENT, why even bother with the pretense?
Tony Dykes
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Tony Dykes Entrepreneur
Director at EnChroma, Inc.
IMHO by making it a structural benefit of their way of doing business. However much you give away is just basic charity and often disappears as a line item if you get bought etc. Figuring out how to do what you do sustainably and reasonably equitably is something different.
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