What is CSR? Benefits of Having a CSR Strategy

Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR and Business

Ask any business if it has a CSR strategy and it is likely to say yes. Ask what that strategy is and you often get a less confident response. If you look at the many activities businesses classify as corporate social responsibility, CSR strategy does seem to be a catch all term that some companies use to explain their actions when they think they are ‘doing the right thing’. Whether it relates to the environment, customers, the community, employees, stakeholders or the wider public, most businesses want to be recognised for their credentials, their achievements and their actions in these areas.

That is understandable, of course. According to a new CSR and the local community report produced for Havas PR UK by YouGov, 49 per cent of us accept that private companies will want to advertise their ‘good deeds’ and less than one in five (18%) suggest that such companies should keep their support inconspicuous. But the reasons for businesses doing ‘the right thing’ are less clear. For example, how exactly does a company benefit it is known to have environmentally friendly policies? Consumer enthusiasm for green issues has waned as purse strings have got tighter during recession, so if a company goes the extra mile on environmental issues does it make the business more successful? If so, how? And is anybody bothering to check?

Certainly, some businesses have CSR on their list of concerns because they believe they should be seen to recognise its importance. The fact that it’s a business cost where the return is difficult to quantify must irk some of those who sign the cheques.

Benefits of CSR

The new Havas/YouGov research mentioned above specifically looks at the potential benefits to businesses of CSR, particularly in the area of community relations on a very local level. It offers some reassurance to those businesses who wonder if the many man hours spent building relationships with their neighbours is really worth the effort. The research included interviews with 2,000 adults across the UK. It examined people’s attitudes to big businesses who are active in their local communities. What do they want to hear from their corporate neighbours? How do they want to hear it? How far do they trust them and how far are they willing to engage with them? The results are fascinating and are a real eye opener for businesses whose CSR strategy consists of oversized cheque presentations.

CSR Benefits

The CSR and the Local Community Report 2014 found that many people welcome the CSR efforts of private businesses – on a local level at least –and reveals the tangible benefits of a well thought out strategy. Those benefits reach as far as directly impacting on a company’s bottom line. A single statement within the report is perhaps the most compelling fact unearthed in the entire research paper. Nearly half (48%) of those surveyed agreed that “I am more likely to buy products from a company that is active in my local community”. If businesses need a reason to focus a good chunk of their CSR efforts onto local communities, surely that statistic is it.

And that is not the end of the story. A solid CSR strategy, focused on local audiences doesn’t just help sales, it is an insurance policy against the day a company’s reputation takes a bashing elsewhere, which almost of them to do at some point. Over a third of respondents said that if a brand or a company does good work in the local community then it was likely they could be forgiven for some other negative business issue. What kind of business issue are we talking about? The report doesn’t say but we can be reasonably sure we’re not talking about major crimes here, but what about a small price rise? How about a business that causes some traffic delays while construction takes place? What about a company that makes the occasional isolated mistake when it comes to customer service?

The research seems to suggest that goodwill, built by sincere community relations efforts, is invaluable when a business wants to smooth over some other local concern or dispute. If you can put a price on potential sales that might have been lost, it’s easy to pinpoint the economic benefit of a local CSR strategy.

More information on the CSR and Local Community Report 2014 is available by emailing csr@havasww.com