Today consumers behaviour is changing, purchase decisions are made based
on factors once not considered. Now, corporate responsibility is high on the social agenda; are they green, are their inputs ethically sourced and how much are they giving back to the community? This is great because It allows you to observe the business environment and what consumers are concerned about, and adjust your practises accordingly. This is called public relations.
The issue is, how do you make a gesture of good will seem authentic and not like paying lip service to a charity for some brownie points?
Harvard University have mastered that authenticity is associated being with being true to oneself. Focusing on ‘how you feel about yourself’.
This is a good place to start.
Their research defines authenticity as a relational behaviour. Not a self centred one. This means to be authentic you are comfortable with yourself, others and are always be able to connect and make others feel comfortable.
What has this all got to do with business?
In addition to Harvard research, John Vostermans, Internet Marketing and Small business Mentor provides these fool proof tips:
- Authenticity Produces trust, inviting players or customers trust.
- Legitimate authenticity evolves into distinctive contribution –authenticity manifests their unique capacities, attitudes and purpose.
- Authenticity generates trust and uniqueness. Trust is essential for any business and something that they must establish.
How do you take all this information and process it into a cohesive comprehension plan?
I sat down with Aussie Communications expert. Kate McEvoy Richards is a lecturer at UTS and APM Business of College and Communications. She also runs her own agency McEvoy Richards Communications.
Today the savvy consumer is looking at socially conscious organisations before making purchase decisions. In your opinion, why have consumers made this shift?
Consumers have always cared about social issues, however knowledge is power. Media coverage about socially irresponsible organisations has certainly mobilised consumers and raised awareness around unethical business practices that could otherwise go unnoticed. With the knowledge and tools they need to make better choices. For instance the ‘shop ethical’ app provides consumers with social and environmental data on a whole range of products. This has empowered consumers to make the shift”
It’s crucial that businesses don’t just apply lip service to a charity to appear socially responsible. From the eyes of the consumer, what would you say they are looking at to notice what is genuine?
Consumers need to see that corporations are supporting charities for more than just sponsorship and branding credit. So, financial sponsorship is a good start but organisations need to demonstrate that they believe in the mission of the charities they support. For instance if a corporation supports a charity that raises awareness about bowel cancer, they need to help that charity with sponsorship for paid promotions but they should also ‘walk the talk’ but ensuring that their own employees are educated on the risks, symptoms and screening options for the disease. This sort of activity demonstrates that the corporation is passionate about the mission of the charity and is willing to carry out that mission on their behalf beyond financial sponsorship.
Dos and Don’ts when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility planning (CSR)
Select causes that relate to your business model. For instance if you are operating within an industry that has an environmental impact, seek to reduce this impact on an ongoing basis. This will involve ongoing commitment to research and innovation. Compliment this with support of organisations that conduct work in this area and be sure to work collaboratively both financially but also in regards to your business practices
Seek buy-in and cooperation from all levels of the business. Everyone from the CEO to the average employee needs to feel that the causes you are supporting are worthwhile. They need to understand why CSR is important and how the organisation as a whole can play a part in creating more sustainable and ethical outcomes for society and the environment
Inform your CSR strategy with research. Understand what impact your organisation is having, how this can be minimised and seek feedback from relevant stakeholders. Don’t assume that your organisation knows what the solutions to a specific problem are. Consult stakeholders, consider a wide range of solutions and be open minded when it comes to developing a strategy that benefits the organisation, society and the environment.
See CSR strategy as a ‘box that simply has to be ticked’. This sort of tokenism is counter-productive and can damage the image and reputation of an organisation. We have seen this with examples of “green washing” where corporations have changed their branding to appear as if they are more environmentally friendly.
Approach CSR programs with a single-minded view of what the organisation seeks to gain. If you are seeking to align with a charity purely for the value that it will bring to your brand you will fail to support this sponsorship exercise with real-world, practical measures to support the program.