Is it just us, or has Corporate Social Responsibility become competitive? – A series of media campaigns and public relations efforts used to promote corporate good works. Each corporate group seeks to “own” one cause area – whether that be maternal health or food security or animal welfare. If a brand can be associated with a singular cause – that would be an ideal CSR/cause marketing success.
Things start to get interesting when more than one corporate group seeks to own that same cause. Usually, one brand will win consumers’ trust, and the other brand will fall short. Consumers may even view this second-place brand as jumping on the CSR bandwagon.
Let’s take an example, cage-free eggs.
Wild Oats, a producer of natural and organic foods, was the “first major chain to formally implement a cage-free corporate policy for eggs,” according to a press release. Their announcement came in 2005. Now, 160 major corporations have announced similar policies. Each of these corporations can now claim to care about animal welfare. Whatever competitive advantage Wild Oats gained by becoming the first major chain to implement a cage-free policy is lost.
It is difficult for corporate groups to “own” one cause area. Plus, it may be in their best interest to combine efforts with other industry leaders or competitors. With the launch of last year’s Sustainable Development Goals, collaboration between government, non-profit, and corporate groups is needed more than ever. The United Nations-led Sustainable Development Goals expand upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were in place from 2000 to 2015. The global goals expand upon the MDGs and deepen their focus on energy, sustainability, and climate change. Every country is expected to work toward achieving them.
These goals offer corporations the opportunity to work alongside government entities, charities, and other organizations to achieve them. Several large corporations including Google, IBM, and UPS have even joined Impact 2030 – a business led effort to strengthen and showcase employee volunteer programs as contributors to the global goals.
Competitively-motivated CSR may not be ideal for the corporate group, but it is good for the consumer. Now more than 160 chain restaurants and retailers have adopted a cage-free egg policy which not only benefits the hens but also consumers as a safer egg alternative.
No matter if you are the first to adopt an industry standard or commit to a new sustainable policy, it is important to demonstrate authenticity in your Corporate Social Responsibility programs. You must clearly communicate why you support a certain cause in order to gain trust from your employees, consumers, and stakeholders.
Competitively-motivated CSR can be an interesting story to follow. If more and more companies adopt CSR policies and work collaboratively with other business leaders, we all benefit. As long as corporate groups continue to connect personally and authentically with their stakeholders, they will continue to gain the trust of their employees and customers.