Determining if Corporate Social Responsibility is Best for Your Business / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Helping others is always good for business, make it's for the right reasons

A corporation has a powerful voice with its customers, employees, and community in which it serves. Over the years, corporations engaging in social responsibility have received a marketing benefit as a result of their efforts. There have been many changes to implementing a good corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, which begs the question – should corporate social responsibility still be part of your business model?

Gone are the days of simply donating money to your local charity. To be successful, you must get others involved. A recent article by Martin Newman in Retail Week suggests that corporate social responsibility should shift towards being more customer centric.

“Putting the customer first is a key requirement to be successful in retail,” said Martin in the article. “To support customers being socially responsible, a brand needs to act strategically rather than run a once-a-year campaign with branded products and a hashtag.”

I agree with Martin’s sentiment, in that in order to carry out corporate social responsibility the correct way, you need to be authentic and not do it as a marketing opportunity.

Be authentic

Getting a benefit from CSR comes from being authentic, not because you are doing it for show. Those who have true corporate social responsibility initiatives that are meant for good will be the ones who wind up receiving the most benefit. In order to be authentic, you must really want to engage in CSR without it being forced on you.

According to the Journal of Management Studies, being authentic is something that cannot be forced or done because others are doing it.

“Generally, it is thought that if an organization is forced to do something or does it because others are doing it, the organization might not do it as authentically as if it was motivated by managers/consultants advising a firm to do it,” Bindu Arya and Gaiyan Zhang published in a 2009 study. “A company might adopt CSR because managers push for it and other companies in its industry are using it.”

One of the best ways to be authentic is to get your entire company involved in corporate social responsibility. Not just participating but, with the early stages of creating a strategy. Reach out and ask employees who they feel should be supported and to list organizations that align with the company’s (and employees’) values.

You will also find employees more willing to take part in CSR if they are included in the planning process.

Making corporate social responsibility work

In order to practice ethical CSR, you cannot simply throw a dart at a list of charities and donate some cash. You must incorporate your company culture into the CSR mix. Here is what I mean.

Planet Fitness was recently touted by Entrepreneur contributor, Sherry Gray, for its corporate social responsibility, which is highlighted for its stance against bullying. Planet Fitness is already known for its “Judgment Free Zone” commitment to fitness where people who are out of shape can enjoy the workout facility without fear of being judged by others.

“Given their mission statement, their anti-bullying initiative seems like a natural fit,” Gray said. “Nearly one in five kids feel bullied at some point and it's a valid concern for about 80 percent of parents. We all want to feel our kids are safe and most of us don't.”

Planet Fitness has taken a culture that it already has made a part of its business model and extended it to public charities supporting similar efforts. The way to make your CSR work is to incorporate it into your own company culture. Here are a few more examples of socially responsible businesses and how they engage in CSR.

If you are engaging in CSR for the purpose of doing good, then it most certainly is worth it. If you are engaging in CSR to get a return on your “investment,” then maybe not. Regardless of your motivation, you need to be authentic and do things the right way.

 See related: Corporate Social Conscience: Doing Good While Doing Business


 Photo credit: ivosar/Shutterstock

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