Reputation still drives CSR

3 December 2012

NEW YORK: Company reputation is still the main driver behind corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes, but competitive and profitability concerns have an increasingly central role, new figures show.

Adam Friedman Associates, the communications group, polled 77 executives from the Fortune 1000 index of firms, some 88% of which agreed reputational matters motivated their activities.

"We look at brand value. We think CSR is a contributor to brand value and our brand level has been rising," said Reg Foster, corporate citizenship and corporate affairs manager at IBM, the services provider.

"We might look to see whether or not an analyst house has a positive recommendation with respect to IBM or if we're included within a CSR index or how we're ranked on a list."

Issues related to competitive positioning recorded 71% on the same measure, while 38% of the panel cited profitability as an influence in this sphere, with current or forthcoming legislative demands on 32%.

"Every colleague has some impact on our CSR performance," Shanaya Deboo, director of policy, external affairs and communications at Pfizer, the pharma group, said. "I think it is driven by the organisation's belief that CSR is a critical business driver."

Upon discussing the channels used to spread CSR information, fully 95% of brand owners added material to official websites, while 72% utilised company reports and 54% leveraged social media.

Customer reaction was a key factor in assessing the results of such strategies for 73% of enterprises, with investor attitudes on 69%. The governmental response logged 52% and media coverage hit 51%.

Looking in-house, the views of C-suite executives were a vital gauge of success at 86% of corporations, with more junior employees on 76%.

"You've got to have the ambition of the CEO to radically transform the business, and you've got to manage this issue as if it's any other major transformational program," said Justin Keeble, senior executive, sustainability services, for Accenture, the consultancy.

Elsewhere, some 51% of contributors stated legal teams were involved in setting CSR goals, standing at 45% for PR units. Marketers registered 30% on this metric, ahead of sales divisions on 24%

Bob Corcoran, vice president of corporate citizenship at General Electric, the conglomerate, argued the size of CSR departments and the stage of development in this area were very much linked.

"I would submit that there is a correlation that the more embedded and real it is or becomes in a corporation the smaller the CSR organisation is because it is embedded in the muscle tissue of the company," he said.

Data sourced from Environmental Leader/Adam Friedman Associates; additional content by Warc staff