If you Google the latest Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) news from around the U.S., you’ll find articles on a grocery store that gave milk to a local food bank; a company that was recognized for its Employee Health and Wellness Program; and a company that reaffirmed its commitment to contribute to a low-carbon future. You’ll also find a long list of businesses that have been given community awards, by the various nonprofits which they support, in recognition of all their efforts and work in supporting those organizations. (Sadly, the organizations recognizing those companies are mostly hoping that the additional exposure will lead to more money for them.)
Quite frankly, it’s all rather uninteresting.
There are typically two types of companies that engage with Corporate Social Responsibility: those that are recovering from a recent PR disaster and need to counter the negative media, and those that want a competitive advantage with their customers and employees. And while people not running CSR programs think it is a super cool position to have, those who are in CSR roles struggle to prove their value to their company’s leadership; to secure good press and a justifiable number of media hits; juggle employee’s requests to be placed on boards or volunteer for different organizations; and file report after report touting all of the good work that is being accomplished. The list goes on and on, and rarely is it as fulfilling as others think, and it’s often demoralizing.
Which leads me to wonder: how do we really make CSR mean something – to those who are delivering it, to company leadership, to customers, to employees, and to all the stakeholders that are touched? When I read about CSR now, it all sounds very, very similar. How can we be more creative in satisfying these stakeholders, and what could we do that is really different and unique? I’m not sure that I have the answer yet, but I’m on a quest to find out!