Corporate social responsibility (CSR) continues to be a buzzword, especially during the height of the pandemic. Once in a while, you see multibillion-dollar businesses donating personal protective equipment and other facilities to hospitals in need.
Before the pandemic, it’s commonplace for enterprises to support social causes. A handful of companies are known to sponsor tree-planting activities or stage a marathon for children with special needs. Other organizations maintain low-key projects in poverty-hit communities.
Common CSR Mistakes
CSR initiatives can be wide-ranging, and there’s no formula in making a successful campaign. If your organization has yet to launch one, here’s a fantastic read about the importance of a CSR strategy and how it’s helped propel major companies.
However, there are some considerations to avoid failure in your project. If your company wants to prevent being blindsided by the most common CSR mistakes, below are the things you should avoid while running your campaign:
1. Ignoring Employees And Customers
It’s always a good idea to start internally. If your business is in the process of looking for a good cause to support, consider conducting a survey involving your employees and customers.
Apart from making your screening process easier, asking for your employees’ and customers’ inputs can make them feel they’re being valued. These important people are the cornerstone for your business success, and making sure their voices are heard ensures your CSR efforts matter to them.
Later, you can invite your employees, customers, and the general public to join your cause in becoming green and eco-friendly if that’s the route you choose to take.
2. Treating CSR As A Separate Entity
Your business must choose an advocacy that’s close to the organization’s heart. For instance, if your enterprise sells beauty products, organize the farmers from where you source your raw materials and train them to improve their production capacities.
CSR influences consumer perception and brand reputation. But don’t make the mistake of launching a CSR campaign to whitewash your internal issues. Before you venture out and spread goodness to the world, iron out the problems inside your company first. This means you shouldn’t attempt to improve the lives of others without ensuring good working conditions in the workplace.
3. Not Having A Cohesive Approach
In most cases, organizations have a department or a focal person in charge of corporate social responsibility (CSR). But this person shouldn’t be the only one working hard to make things happen. Depending on the scope of the CSR project, it takes a great deal of time and effort to make it work, especially shortly after its inception.
If the other departments, for example, the finance and administration departments, aren’t completely sold out on the idea of charitable works impacting business objectives, the campaign can’t move forward. Also, a CSR marketing campaign requiring the help of the public relations team could get rejected for lack of budget by the finance team as they see the press release and media placement being a waste of resources.
4. Treating CSR As Mere Publicity Stunt
One of the most serious errors an organization can make in its CSR campaign is to treat it as a pure marketing tool. This defeats the core purpose of the initiative: to give back to the community. Corporate social responsibility is hinged on a business’s moral obligation to provide solutions to society’s pain points, and a photo release is certainly not going to solve anything.
So, instead of measuring achievements by the number of photos of company bigwigs shaking hands with public officials, companies should use CSR to provide high-impact solutions.
As much as possible, veer away from mere donation schemes and design a project that addresses problems in a more impactful way. CSR implementers should touch base with the grassroots community and beneficiaries to understand where they’re coming from and take it from there. If the underlying problem is too heavy to address, look for another problem your company can provide answers to.
5. Not Partnering With Other Groups
Companies are never obliged to solve an endemic or pervasive problem on their own. But some businesses aim to make an initiative purely unique to them, short of making the CSR move a trade name. Unfortunately, a business can only do so much in addressing widespread problems such as environmental damage and poverty—even if confined in a small community.
In order to be effective, organizations implementing CSR should acknowledge they can’t solve big problems without the help of like-minded agencies and even the local government. Some clever companies coordinate with a non-profit organization that has a proven track record in solving the issues at hand. If your organization can’t fix a problem by itself, tap other organizations and the local agencies who can.
Granted that these organizations have different interests, you have to be mindful of whom to invite in your circle. You can’t afford to have your CSR efforts politicized or your motives questioned as your brand reputation could suffer.
6. Lacking Understanding Of CSR’s Potentials
Very few businesses understand the true potential of a strategic corporate social responsibility strategy. It has the power to influence consumers’ perception of a brand, leading more potential clients to transact with your business.
For decades now, the drive for sustainable and more eco-friendly industry practices are being pushed worldwide. Since then, almost all sectors have launched their sporadic CSR campaigns. But the issue is far from being settled, considering the pervasiveness of the problem.
For instance, a 2020 study done in Italy about consumer perceptions on CSR initiatives of wine companies revealed those who surveyed consider health and food safety, sustainable agricultural practices, and air pollution as the most important issues resonating with them.
Environment preservation is always a big hit to consumers. Yet, an effective CSR campaign does more than generate a positive brand reputation. It can also be used to grow your business by sparking ideas for product innovation and using connections to promote a new company product or service.
7. Doing Half-Hearted Work
As with other things in life, CSR won’t work without careful consideration and steadfast commitment. Once an enterprise enters the scene, it should seek to improve the situation and focus on making a positive impact.
Businesses should ensure they’re in it for the long haul and provide adequate resources to run the program. The company’s CSR unit should feel supported enough by all business units to stay committed and motivated. They should be empowered to create impactful activities that don’t need to be costly.
Businesses should consider corporate social responsibility as more than a buzzword, and CSR launches should move past being a mere public relations stunt. As a way of giving back, companies must embark on practical initiatives that change the lives of target beneficiaries or communities.
For first-timers who don’t know where or how to start, CSR implementation offers enough room for exploration and innovation. As there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a successful corporate charity, you’ll have to explore, learn, and innovate on how to move advocacy forward.