The business case stacks up...
In 2006 Michael Porter and Mark Kramer wrote in an article (Link to article ) for the Harvard Business Review….
Prevailing approaches to CSR are so fragmented and so disconnected from business and strategy as to obscure many of the greatest opportunities for companies to benefit society. If, instead, corporations were to analyse their prospects for social responsibility using the same frameworks that guide their core business choices, they would discover that CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed – it can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage.
Since 2006, like all aspects of business, corporate social responsibility has evolved greatly. Whilst the world of CSR and social impact is no exception for those that have embraced social impact as a core component of their commercial growth strategy, it must be said that still many others are still stuck with a 2006 mindset. And as a result, are missing out on the commercial benefits provided by a well imbedded corporate social impact strategy.
One particularly outdated perception of value that CSR provides to your company, is that it provides reputational currency… this can no longer be considered a viable advantage of social responsibility in 2021. The problem with this, today it is harder to find a company without some kind of CSR initiative and therefore the reputational currency of differentiation is nullified.
Simply attaching your brand to any social cause however topical or important it may be, without much consideration, will likely make negligible difference to the social cause, nor will it improve your brand appeal to your customers. If it’s topical, companies will be falling over themselves to align with that social cause and your company’s voice gets lost in the crowd.
Secondly, you run the risk of being perceived as disingenuous; alignment with the social cause may be shortly succeeded by apathy towards your company’s social impact activity internally and by your customers, irrespective of how well-meaning it may have been to begin with. Following a decade of declining trust in our institutions, a litany of high-profile leadership scandals and an increasingly influential millennial generation that is intent on doing business differently, I suspect that in the coming decade, corporate authenticity will be vitally important, so corporates must tread carefully.
The solution; find the points of company strategy and societal intersection. By first looking internally at your company strategy, goals and expertise and then asking how that can have positive social impact, your organisation will start on the right foot to creating sustainable and profitable impact. Secondly a sustainable corporate social impact strategy should provide an opportunity for differentiation. If your organisation truly believes that it is unique in the market, demonstrate that through the social impact you generate.
James McHugh – Head of Corporate Social Impact at Apricot Consulting
James McHugh is a qualified social worker and is currently completing a Master of Social Impact at Swinburne University. He leads the corporate social impact department of Apricot Consulting which seeks to help organisations with their corporate social impact programs, social and environmental impact strategies and not for profit and social enterprise engagement and relationship management.