BOLDface Communications

Green Earth PR

How Corporate Social Responsibility is Like Losing Weight

by Nora DePalma on January 23rd, 2012

“The notion that addressing environmental and social challenges will give a boost to sales or stock prices may be putting the cart a bit before the horse.”

In today’s Bulldog Reporter, sustainability communications strategist Tim Woodall notes that CSR initiatives aren’t a silver bullet for fast ROI in terms of sales revenue or share price.

Building a reputation usually takes a little more than that.

Which is not to say that there isn’t serious money to be made from a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR).  See Patagonia; Trader JoesSee Interface. These are not stories about branding or marketing. These are case studies in how a business can profit when social responsibility becomes part of the business DNA.

Think of it in terms of losing weight. (I don’t want to think about it either, but stay with me on this.) A crash diet nets fast results.   Attempting CSR solely through branding and public relations activities is like dieting.  It will work for a while and companies will benefit from being affiliated with good causes.

But if the rest of the company isn’t changing its behavior, those pounds, er, credibility issues will come back stronger and fiercer. And will be harder to remove. See BP and its millions of branding dollars lost.

To carry the dieting analogy even further (do we have to?), keeping the pounds off requires a lifestyle change. That lifestyle change includes a level of accountability documented by measureable metrics, also known as “the bathroom scale.”

In business, this lifestyle change to a new corporate DNA is measured in a CSR report.  Like the bathroom scale, we may recoil from what the truth says about us at first.  But the measurable progress is exciting. Not to mention extremely credible, and increasingly influential in consumer purchase behavior.  See Gen Y.

Read more from Woodall about building reputation–and ultimately profits–in this Bulldog Reporter piece.