Last week, the world recognized International Corporate Philanthropy Day to raise global awareness of corporate-community partnerships. I don’t know about you, but I took a moment to pause, reflect upon my personal charitable contributions and pay-it-forward to a stranger on the street. Ok, I’m lying. But it did get me thinking about how public relations practitioners can leverage corporate social responsibility (CSR) to sway public opinion, raise awareness and yes, maybe even increase revenue.
Several recent CSR campaigns have caught my eye. For example, have you ever been to the Southeast Asian nation of Bhutan? Well, neither have I, but a company called Mountain Hazelnut Venture located in Bhutan is combating deforestation by planting 10 million hazelnut trees in the next five years. Meanwhile, in c21’s backyard of Atlanta, The Coca-Cola Company compiled all of its inspiring corporate sustainability efforts into an annual report and then placed it online, rather than in print, to conserve resources.
According to Stephen Jordan, founder and executive director of the Business Civic Leadership Center, “In 2000 there might have been a dozen Fortune 500 companies who issued a CSR or sustainability report. Now almost all of them do.”
Wall Street even produces a “Corporate Social Responsibility Weekly Recap” each Thursday, which details recent philanthropic headlines from publicly-traded companies.
So is CSR just a buzz word? A profit-sucking goodwill effort? Or is it a real public relations tactic that actually provides a true return on investment?
In early February, Burson-Marsteller launched the Global Corporate Reputation Index, which identifies the 25 companies with the best corporate reputation, such as Puma, Lego and Ford. The study found that most companies underinvest in CSR, but the companies who do put forth effort are rewarded by consumers.
In fact, a 2010 study found that “75 percent of consumers believe social responsibility is important, and 55 percent of consumers said they would choose a product that supports a particular cause against similar products that don’t.”
Clearly, CSR programs attract customers and create a loyal fan base, that can result in increased profits. And if you meet revenue goals this year, perhaps you can take that trip to Bhutan you’ve always dreamed of.
Many of c21’s clients have robust CSR programs. For a great example, watch this FOX 5 story on leading data center provider, QTS, and its partnership with YearUp. If your company is interested in how it can leverage CSR through public relations, click here to request a custom capabilities packet today!