The core value of Corporate Social Responsibility is never profit, it’s always 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 with companies in either a season or a general state of a bad public reputation. Think of popular parastatals, either in a good or dire financial straits and the social investment choices they have made that you either agree or disagree with. I’m thinking about T-Shirts here.
If our investment choices are ad-hoc, poorly linked to the core of our business, and unsustainable (feeding fish but not training a fisherman), we will end up spending a lot of money to find out what we’re doing wrong, and why it’s wrong for you.
Friday we learned more about living a good reputation, by being authentic. If corporate social responsibility concerns your values on 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 surprised 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 with which we can align strategy: 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 media. Are you being 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 leading actions that are to the benefit of 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 is it contributing to the welfare of the society you’re invested in? It’s not supposed to be an easy question, but it’s a valid question.
In essence, and when viewing our sponsorship choices as being socially fair or unfair, we ask whether our employees and the environment are held equal 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 the times those brands were mentioned for discrimination, poor workplace ethics, (angry) labour union involvement, corruption, and scandals. True story!
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. It’s campaigns fuelled with high-level awareness and public support that are trusted and bring about social change. If leaders manage to steer social investments that change mindsets and change 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 protection. It’s more than the >70% on average, which is the degree to which the reputation of the chief executive directly reflects on the reputation of the company. It’s 1-3% of company spend, but it’s a marathon (enduring) investment in 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’re perceived, lest it be honest. Our pro-social and pro-environment conscious efforts have an impact on consumer perceptions. Full stop. And it definitely bares impact not only on the bottom line but 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.