Corporate social responsibility and reputation

9 minute read

Corporate social responsibility and reputation

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a strategy is an essential part of your company’s reputation. Not only will your CSR help build your corporate reputation and customer base, it also will help protect your business from reputation damage and accelerate your recovery time after a crisis.

CSR mistakes can damage or even ruin your reputation, so it’s vital to plan and implement your strategy properly. We’ll discuss the basics of CSR, as well as the benefits and how to utilize it for business growth and stability.

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What is CSR and why is it important?

Corporate social responsibility is the accountability that companies—especially corporate giants—must have to minimize their negative effects on the environment and do good for society as a whole.

Millennials are placing a higher priority on social responsibility than previous generations, showing a progressive inclination to favor companies that care about social issues, fair trade, sustainability, and the like. As CSR increases in importance, the effect it will have on your corporate reputation continues to grow.

What are the 4 types of social responsibility?

Social responsibility is a broad term for different types of humanitarian action. The four pillars of corporate social responsibility are:

  • Philanthropy: The effort using strategic gifts to help people solve long-term problems.
  • Labor: The treatment, diversity, and satisfaction of your workforce.
  • Environmental conservation: An in-depth analysis of your environmental footprint and your reduction efforts that exceed governmental regulations (after all, no one is going to pat you on the back for obeying the law).
  • Volunteerism: The donation of time and talent to create a direct and immediate impact.

What is the main purpose of corporate social responsibility?

Depending on who you ask, you might get different answers as to what the main purpose of corporate responsibility is. 

From a business perspective, the main purpose of corporate social responsibility is to improve your corporate reputation and increase the value of your company.

Looking beyond the financial benefits, the deeper purpose of CSR—and the reason it’s an effective strategy—is that CSR focuses the actions of the company on the best interests of the consumers, the community, and the world. CSR is a powerful way for successful corporations to give back to the consumers and communities that built and supported them.

However you choose to view it, corporate social responsibility plays an undeniable role in your corporate reputation and ultimately your bottom line.

corporate social responsibility

Illustrated relationships between CSR, customer satisfaction, customer attitude, and corporate reputation

Examples of corporate social responsibility

What does a socially responsible company look like?

To start, they’re genuine. Even if the motivation for CSR is the financial bottom line, today’s global leaders are executing genuine and impactful efforts to:

  • Help the underserved
  • Improve labor practices
  • Mitigate climate change
  • Embrace fair trade
  • Fund medical research
  • Engage in charitable giving
  • Volunteer in the community

Philanthropy

The majority of big-name companies handle their corporate philanthropy via philanthropy programs. These programs incorporate donation matching, stakeholder incentives to participate in international outreach, global product and service donation or price reduction, grants and scholarships, and volunteerism.

Take a look at the CSR of your investments and affiliates. Demonstrate your dedication to your social responsibility by enforcing stricter standards for the businesses and sectors you deal with and invest in. Look for investment opportunities in environmental protection tech, environmental community education, renewable energy, humanitarian innovation, etc. Consider implementing a program to employ veterans or local unsheltered individuals.

This type of CSR investment will bring big returns both directly and indirectly through increased consumer support and adoration.

Labor

Embracing fair trade and improving labor policies for all levels of your corporate structure is a vital part of your CSR. In today’s hyperconnected world, the way you treat your employees is one of the most scrutinized aspects of your business.

Improving conditions can be as simple as making your facilities more comfortable and appealing. Offer as much paid parental leave to both parents as you can afford. Allow remote work when possible. Regular team building events and activities can do wonders for your employee satisfaction.

Environmental conservation

This is one of the biggest opportunities for developing CSR. Encourage environmental awareness throughout your ranks, but remember that businesses, not individuals, are responsible for virtually all global emissions.

That’s why it’s so important to address the issue as a company. Evaluate your operations on every level and identify opportunities for:

  • Increasing sustainability
  • Improving packaging
  • Reducing plastic
  • Incorporating wind and solar energy
  • Using biodegradable materials
  • Minimizing paper waste
  • Reducing power usage

Consumption and opportunities will vary for every company. Even something as easy as switching to LED bulbs can make a measurable difference. Place recycling bins throughout your facilities and organize community events to plant trees, clean up, and improve the local environment to display your dedication to CSR.

Volunteerism

Offer your employees incentives to participate in your corporate volunteerism. Some creative ideas include:

  • Paid time off for volunteering
  • Rewards for charitable donations
  • Contests
  • Team building volunteer events
  • Reduced product or service prices to local charitable organizations
Invite the community to your events to spread awareness of your CSR improvement.

Benefits of CSR to stakeholders

The primary benefit of improving your corporate social responsibility is the improvement in your corporate reputation.

Improving your corporate reputation in turn has significant and reaching benefits, including financial impacts like reducing turnover, broadening audience, and increasing consumer trust.

CSR improves your reputation by creating a safety net of positive perception and online information. This safety net helps diminish the effect of negative online information and can protect your business against the effects of a reputation crisis.

For example, a study from the University of California, Berkeley showed that firms with better CSR ratings maintained higher stock prices after product recalls than firms with lower scores.

Benefits of corporate social responsibility

  • Lower turnover
  • Greater consumer trust
  • More company recommendations
  • Improved brand sentiment
  • Higher sales
  • Increased revenue
  • Decreased reputation damage after a crisis
  • Improved online search results/online reputation
  • Improved recruiting ability
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Reduced operational costs
  • Increased access to investment and partnership
  • Increased company value
benefits of corporate social responsibility

 

Corporate social responsibility statistics

How to maximize your benefits

Don’t be afraid to broadcast your corporate social responsibility. Use social media, blogs, and other media to highlight your improvements, actions, and investments. Approach it not as a marketing tactic but as an opportunity to encourage more social responsibility.

One example approach is to drive and publicize initiatives for local soup kitchens, shelters, schools, senior care centers, and food banks. You could also post flyers and create a designated section of your website for your social responsibility.

The idea is to integrate your corporate social responsibility fully into your corporate values and culture. Furthermore, you can encourage your customer base to join in your missions, which will create even more awareness while simultaneously investing your customers more in your brand.

CSR FAQs

What is CSR strategy?

Designing a strategy for corporate social responsibility is similar to designing any other business strategy. Start with your long-term vision, and define your short-term and long-term goals, including deadlines. Be flexible but focused on progress. CSR is a relatively new concept, and it will look different for every business, but every business can implement and benefit from a CSR strategy.

Is CSR a business strategy?

Due to its undeniable benefits, CSR is often thought of as a business strategy for larger companies that have grown enough to invest heavily in what is essentially a massive marketing tactic. However, at its roots, corporate social responsibility is simply a strategy to make your business genuinely better by holding it accountable for its impact on and role in society. As the real value of your business increases, you get to reap the benefits that come with running a better business.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a term used to describe the creation of the appearance of CSR for a company that is not actually improving its environmental or social impact. For example, a business might claim to be green because they are offering online services, even though the energy usage created by those services is contributing to climate change. This façade can and will backfire when consumers learn that their support for your company was misguided, and they’re unlikely to ever trust your brand again. Greenwashing is inadvisable and wasteful, especially considering the cost of real CSR typically can be worked into your existing budget on any scale.