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Core value of Corporate Social Responsibility- it’s never by Chance, it’s always by Purpose

Core value of Corporate Social Responsibility- it’s never by Chance, it’s always by Purpose

By Natasja Beyleveld, Managing Director of NaMedia.

Responding to corporates’ social investments (be it free products, food, houses, you name it); one of the reactions that I had to get ‘accustomed’ to is this: “What a waste, why don’t they do ____ (fill in blanc) or just lower their price or invest in better service avenues”.

This response usually ties in with companies that are either in a seasonal or a general state a bad public reputation. Think of popular parastatals, either in a good or dire financial state, and the social investment choices they have made that you either agree or disagree with. I’m thinking about T-Shirts here.

If your social investment choices are ad-hoc, poorly linked to the core of your business, and unsustainable (feeding fish but not training a fisherman), you will end up spending a lot of money to find out what you’re doing wrong, and why it’s wrong for you.

Last Friday we learned more about living a good reputation by being authentic. If corporate social responsibility concerns your values to society, then how do you see these values reflected in the sponsorships that you’re committed to? Answer with ‘we’re into _______’. You’ll be surprized to learn that enormous companies are dedicated to sponsoring failing initiatives because they have created dependency, or because they feel obliged to and have no specific alternative or means to change direction (bureaucracy, or fake red tape).

Remember, there are four types of CSR to which corporate strategy can be aligned to: Environmental sustainability, Direct philanthropic giving, Ethical business practise, and economic responsibility. Given Namibia’s current economic circumstances, aligning CSR/I policy with the latter has become most popular throughout the media.

Do you support Harambee? Back to social; if it’s social in nature it means that you’re working with other people to make the sponsorship work. You’re not Oprah Winfrey dishing out product or cash (even though it’s a nice surprise). Therefore, failing relationships are many a time at the core of failing sponsorships. Think about that.

It’s an ethical theory where individuals are held accountable for actions that benefit society. See it as a weighing scale, and the need to create equilibrium between economic growth and the welfare of society and the environment. Are your sponsorship choices creating equilibrium, and are they contributing to the welfare of the society? It’s not supposed to be an easy question, but it’s a valid question.

In essence, when viewing sponsorship choices as socially fair or unfair, we ask whether our employees and the environment are held in equal regard to our company’s economics. It takes us back to the drawing board (more than once, and ongoing).

Fact drop: Transparency is leading the moral consciousness that actualises social responsibility. Do you read about and know good things about good companies in Namibia but you remember when those brands were mentioned for discrimination, poor workplace ethics, (angry) labour union involvement, corruption, and scandals. – true story!

Even Coca Cola has been ‘on the dark side’ (they pulled a Dark Wing Duck). Between 1989 and 2002, eight union leaders from bottling plants in Colombia were killed after they raised concerns about labour practices, and many members of the union and workforce there have been kidnapped and tortured to prevent them from supporting it (say whaaat!).

And that bottled water you drink? You may think twice before taking a sip when you learn where it comes from. Coca-Cola’s plant in Kerala, India (I was thinking about poop, but wait it gets worse), gets that water from deep wells in the area, which is great for them – but not so great for residents who are left with little to drink or use for agriculture.

And even while Coca-Cola’s worst infractions occurred overseas, they weren’t saints at home either, with over 2,000 African-American employees suing and winning a case against the company for race discrimination.

Think about chocolate; even Nestlé comes under fire for their aggressive marketing campaigns for their baby formula in developing and poor nations. Why is this a big deal? Because the company markets its formula under false pretences, wanting mothers to believe it is more healthy than their own [free] breast milk.

OK, let’s focus. Large or small enactments for positive change really is the good stuff. It’s the stuff that gives you goosebumps or fabulous ideas. These are campaigns fuelled with high-level awareness and public support, that are trusted, and bring about social change.

If business leaders manage to steer social investment initiatives that change mindsets and circumstances, then they’re in a winning loop, open to ongoing improvement, monitoring, and impact. It’s significant to know that 92% of consumers have a more positive image of companies that support social issues and environmental efforts. This is more than the less than 70% that the reputation of the CEO determines the reputation of the company. SCR is typically only 1% to 3% of company spend but it’s a marathon (enduring) investment into the company’s reputation.

Millennials Want to See More Corporate Social Responsibility

Yes, of course I’m bringing millennials into this piece. For millennials and Generation Z, socially responsible companies are LIT (if you’re a mature wine; this means that something is ‘legitimately cool’). They believe companies should be invested in improving society and look for solutions that will assist in those improvements.

Is your sponsorship improving society in the form of sport, culture, living conditions (you name it)? We’re into media monitoring and public communications, and I truly understand why it’s crucial for companies to share how they are trying to make a positive impact on the country (world), so the public can see the pro-social initiatives they are winning at.

Showcasing efforts will ultimately impact the choices millennials make as consumers. Remember, you guide how you are perceived, lest it be honest. Your pro-social and environmentally conscious efforts have an impact on consumer perceptions – full stop!

And it definitely has an impact not only on the bottom line but also on the chance that others will begin initiatives of their own. So bring it on; bring it to the media agenda, onto public platforms, and into the Potjiekos we serve Namibia.

Love, Natasja


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