Thursday, 20 October 2011

Austerity now drives corporate responsibility

The rise of Corporate Social Responsibility over the last 25 years has seen large businesses find ways to demonstrate they do right by society as well as make money for their shareholders.

Done well, often by involving staff in implementing projects or ideas generation, these CSR schemes can enhance the reputation of a company. Frequently however CSR is a catch-all term seen within businesses as a necessary part of their public relations strategy. Increasingly consumers are seeing through this.  

With environmentalism moving into the mainstream in the last decade business embraced the green agenda as the main thrust of their CSR box ticking. Some companies such as Marks and Spencer's with their 'Plan A' 100 point eco plan made CSR integral to how the company is run; rather than just talking about it they did it. Now, as austerity bites and green issues are seen to be far less of a priority for many, including many governments around the world, businesses are shifting their focus.  

Kellogg's have recently launched a scheme where they make a donation to a school breakfast club every time a pack of corn flakes is bought. Their aim is to provide 1 million breakfasts to childern across the UK. Vodafone has set up 'Just Text Giving' to make giving money to charity easier, Unilever also invest in education, Tesco has a charity trust that provides equipment and resources that directly benefit children, the elderly and adults and children with disabilities, all the major supermarkets back resources for schools in various ways, Mars, McDonalds and others support sport but also community clubs that aid social cohesion.   

This is clever positioning by these companies allowing them to demonstrate they understand the concerns of their target customer base. If the current economic woes continue then expect many more businesses to move away from green CSR to projects supporting local communities or even public services.    

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