In a significant white paper directed to corporate board members, The Conference Board has challenged directors to be aware of the benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies and the challenges of communicating those actions to key stakeholders in the enterprise.
While the business benefits of CSR activities are now well-documented, the report says, “…communicating these activities are far from simple. If stakeholders perceive a lack of clarity regarding the company’s commitment to CSR, doubt the effectiveness of its CSR initiative, or miss the connection of a certain sociality activity to the core business, a backlash can occur. CSR communication must overcome stakeholder skepticism to generate favorable CSR attributions.”
The report identified 6 key recommendations for board members to provide guidance for communicating CSR strategies:
1. Seek CSR activities that fit into the business strategy.
2. Emphasize CSR commitment and impact to foster consumer advocacy.
3. Seek credibility through the support of independent, external communication sources.
4. Encourage employee and consumer word-of-mouth.
5. Select social initiatives with high issue support.
6. Be mindful of stakeholder perception of business industry.
Here is a chart demonstrating how companies are
currently communicating CSR activities.
We are still surprised how passive and latent the CSR communications activities are. The Conference Board recommends in their research that more consumer engagement is a critical next step to elevate CSR attribution and success.
The report says “a company’s CSR positioning can significantly amplify the effectiveness of CSR communication. Stakeholders are likely to pay more attention to a comprehensive and coherent CSR message and believe in the authenticity of the social commitment.”
In other words, CSR should become a cornerstone asset in the brand’s equity and marketing focus.