Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Understanding CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a complicated subject, and often dismissed as a public relations tool for corporates or organisations to keep a good image. Does it benefit your business?

According to Mallen Baker, a writer, speaker and strategic advisor on CSR: "Customer satisfaction is where it begins and the bottom line is where it ends?" He explains that customer satisfaction these days in not just about price and service. And he argues that if one thinks CSR is just "only a cost to the bottom line rather than an opportunity then you don't know your business as well as you think you do." mmhh! well said.

To understand CSR, it is important to understand what responsibility means. L'etang. J., (2006), in Public Relations: Critical debates and contemporary practice, notes that responsibility may be used "in different ways in the context of moral responsibility of business, perhaps which is what leads to some confusion over the morality of both practice of CSR and the role of PR in this field."

It therefore would be right to say that, CSR is about how companies manage the business process to produce an overall positive impact on the society in which it operates and keep a good image. It is presented largely as a technique or tool for enhancing reputation.

However, according to Tench & Yeomans (2006) in Exploring public relations, the authors refer CSR as "often associated with the phrase 'enlightened self-interest' - how organisations plan and manage their relationships with key stakeholders."(p.97)

During this week's session on CSR, discussed from a practitioner's perspective by Adam Garfunkel, he pointed out three core elements of CSR explaining that it should be a voluntary action of business -- which means being beyond compliance, commitment to ethical behaviour and managing processes. Secondly, CSR is about achieving positive social outcomes -- meaning that a company or organisation ensures quality of life improvements for their employees, community and society in the long-term.
Thirdly, Adam noted that whilst benefiting its business objectives -- apart from gaining benefits through CSR, the programme also created wealth among the society where it operates. From lessons learnt in this class and after reading further on this topic, I came across some important points on CSR below.Through an effective CSR programme, companies can:
  • improve access to capital
  • sharpen decision-making and reduce risk
  • enhance brand image
  • uncover previously hidden commercial opportunities, including new markets
  • reduce costs
  • attract, retain and motivate employees

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