Engaging Corporate Social Responsibility (Csr): Companies Moving From Guilt Trip to Pro-Activity

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With an increasing interest in Corporate Social Responsibility issues, where CSR issues have even penetrated the advertising world, the pertinent question to ask is, is engagement in corporate Social Responsibility Guilt Trip? There is a strong feeling that companies should really not engage in CSR but rather have engaging CSR. But how CSR can change from engaging in to engaging CSR?

While the first one has a connotation of guilt, the second brings in joy and commitment.  If CSR should move from a guilt trip to pro-activity, companies must entrench CSR in their philosophy and mission statements.   

There is the school of thought that holds that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should rather be called Corporate Philanthropy (CP), and though the definition of Corporate Philanthropy comes out superior to Corporate Social Responsibility, the two differ not in the letter but in the spirit.  As long as we have captured the essential differences between the two terms, we can use both terms interchangeably.  We therefore do not need to use one term in exclusion of or opposition to the other.Hence, theworking definition of Corporate Social Responsibility is a responsibility that companies willingly take upon their shoulders for the betterment of humankind or community without bartering, buttering or meant to embittering them.

When companies start an engaging CSR, the right environment for CSR must be present, and it matters a lot the historical environment. If a company that comes in an area forcefully destroying its relationship with the community around, it will face harsh judgment from the community and no amount of good works in terms of its CSR engagement among that community can repair it.  Apart from the historical environment, the ongoing or the current environment also matters. Therefore, the right environment is where a company is right with her employees, has good human rights record, is good to the physical environment and is good to the community.

But are the principles governing CSR is on the sandy or rocky ground? For CSR engagement to be real, these principles must hinge on timeless principles.  These principles includes putting people first, the principle of  societal needs driven CSR,   must stem from volunteering spirit, as well as the principle of CSR moving  from saving face to creating the good image. Other principles include CSR moving from being impulsive and sporadic to planned, Consistent and well entrenched, that CSR must transform lives, and lastly, that a company must be good in and of itself before it does any good. 

CSR engagement starts and ends somewhere and thus forms aprogression Chain whereit starts from Philanthropic and Ethical Aspect which is the heart and conscience of CSR, goes to corporate and strategic planning Aspect, which is the CSR driving and proactive force, then proceeds to Public Relations and Marketing Aspect which is the CSR awareness vehicle, to Community Aspect, which is the CSR target and finally to the Business and Government Aspect, where CSR starts and finishes the game.

Of course, CSR engagement is always talking something about the company and says something about the company. CSR engagement give a message to the community and the surrounding and this message can be very strong, indeed, an issue of life and death for the company. Some of the messages these companies send out there are, we are not just out to make profits, we have more important things than money, we are part of the community and, we are touched by the needs of the community. This only means one thing-CSR engagement not only improves the company profiles, it also improves the image of that company.

However, that does not mean that the kindness a company portrays cannot be misinterpreted.  The company can be sympathy driven, or can offer ‘hurting help’, or the help that they off can help the community to hurt. Given such scenarios, what can a company engaging CSR do?  Companies must do social analysis of the Community, must know the worldview of the Community and must use the right channels in their CSR engagement.

There are motives and benefits of companies dressing in overalls and soiling the hands in CSR engagement. The company motives can be to connect with the community, to give back to the community and to alleviate poverty, to put up a human face as well as to empower the community. But in exchange the companies also get something from the community too. Companies exchange their goodness for the goodwill from the community.

Companies are at a loss in their effort to determining how much should go to CSR. Some companies use Ad hoc declaration, the reactive nature of CSR engagement where some companies just declare a figure of how much should go to CSR engagement from the profits they make.  Other companies use the doling method where a small amount of money that goes to the CSR engagement. Yet, other companies use the percentage formula.  which can go either way of meanness or generosity. But, better still, companies can form a synergy.  This is where two or more companies can team up together for CSR engagement.

There is a possibility of companies coming together in CSR engagement. Companies can move from a lonely preserve to a social network of their own, where many companies can form partnerships with other companies as well as the government, a process known as CSR synergy.  The reason for this is that companies are tapping the power of resources and tapping on holistic approach. Generally, there are three types of synergetic partnerships companies can form in their CSR engagement.  These are CSR coordination synergy, corporation synergy and communication synergy.

Since a lot of CSR engagement is not accounted for after giving, companies can put measures in place to monitor and evaluate on their CSR engagement. The basic project cycle involves planning, implementing, monitoring, reporting, evaluating, steering and learning and feedback lessons by and large, should be the cycle the CSR engagement should go through. Where companies feel that any activity after CSR engagements is not in their domain or fear their doing what is not their core business, they may decide to hire a consultant or a trainer or an auditor or an M&E expert to handle the issues of CSR engagement who should furnish the company with a report of the use of its funds, train the company management and employees in CSR engagement, help the company entrench CSR policy in company’s philosophy or strategic planning and help companies in the whole area of Monitoring and Evaluation.  For CSR engagement to be effective, we need ethical leaders regardless on the type of CEO at the helm.  Such a leadership will have the role of championing, sponsoring and facilitating CSR engagement.

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