WHILE spending some time in the supermarket or department store, you can test your analytical skills by exploring why some brands have become a shaper or adapter of what we normally lump into a program called corporate social responsibility or CSR for convenience.
Why not? Don’t simply compare prices and be swayed by promotional gimmicks pushing you to buy a zillion packs of 3-in-1 coffee, good for a one-year supply, because you like that one beautiful mug packaged with the box.
CSR is not about giving money or its equivalent to the poor. It’s about an organization earning decent money and you can’t help but ask a thought-provoking question: “I’d like to buy coffee, but only from a manufacturer who has the heart to consider the plight of poor coffee farmers. But where’s the evidence of this?”
Maybe we can discover these from the glossy pages of some annual reports, but how real has it become? If you’re a sophisticated consumer, that’s how you should make a buying decision. The trouble is that in this jurisdiction, the sophisticated customer is only about one per cent of the total population. The 99 per cent will normally ask a devil-may-care question: “Who cares?”
You should care, of course, because no man is an island. You should feel the pain of other people to care enough and to feel humanity. You should help even if no one is looking, because you don’t know when your time will be up. And if your time is up, you’ll simply be relegated to a dark, hot place where you hear nothing but gnashing teeth. Helping the poor can warm your heart and mind.
The gap between one percent and 99 percent of consumer sophistication may be the decisive factor for an organization whether to pursue CSR or not. That’s why I admire companies, regardless of their business, that walk into a program that is less pursued.
Take “cause promotion” as one CSR strategy. According to Philip Kotler, David Hessekiel and Nancy Lee in their 2012 book “Good Works!” – cause promotion is persuading consumers to join and promote a good, noble public intention. It “leverages corporate funds, in-kind contributions, or other resources to increase awareness and concern about social cause or to support fundraising, participation, or volunteer recruitment for a cause.”
One way to do cause promotion is by building awareness and concern by publishing poignant statistics and facts, like the number of children who go to school without having a decent breakfast. Can you imagine including this fact in a box of cereal?
By building an information and educational campaign, an organization can move people and its customers to do any or all of the following: First, find out more about the issue. Second, persuade them to donate their time. Third, convince them to donate money. Fourth, encourage them to give non-monetary resources like used cooking ware or old clothes. Lastly, get them to be involved in fundraising or signing an online petition.
Now, under local conditions, what organizations are doing this type of CSR? Not many. Today, it has become easy for organizations to mouth something about their CSR programs. Unsuspecting people who listen get all the benefits of blank amusement. Take this concrete, all-familiar example: Suppose you’re applying for a job. Chances are you’ll slightly exaggerate your vital work experience, education and biographical accomplishments.
That’s also what companies are doing with their CSR programs or anything that resembles it. Probe these. Do a deep dive. Analyze the facts in their annual reports, websites and other pertinent channels. The experience alone can give you the climax pursued by sensible police investigators or investigative journalists.
This may sound overly pessimistic, but not if we’re only proving that there are some organizations that can’t rely on CSR as a marketing or public relations campaign. The have to be sincere enough to help the less privileged because giving, not necessarily in monetary terms, is one virtue that you and I can’t afford to ignore.
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing on human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to email@example.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random management thoughts.