Enron, BP, Lehman Brothers: These are just a few examples of corporate social irresponsibility that have negatively affected the way the public views corporations. From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, corporations and the people who run them are losing the public’s trust. Consumers have access to more corporate information than ever, and consumers are increasingly loyal to brands that get high marks for corporate social responsibility (CSR).

 

CSR, also known as corporate citizenship, demonstrates to the public an organization’s commitment to society and to the environment. Millennials — the future of the marketplace who watched their parents lose jobs and life savings due to corporate irresponsibility — are savvy, informed, and intolerant of secrecy. They’re also the most social conscious of any generation in history. According to the Reputation Institute, “42 percent of how people feel about a company is based on the firm’s reputation for corporate social responsibility.” In a 2013 study by Cone Communications/Echo Global, 93 percent of respondents said they were more likely to show loyalty to companies that reflect the causes most important to them.

 

Hobby Lobby protesters speak out against conservative corporate values that de-value women.

Hobby Lobby protesters speak out against conservative corporate values that de-value women.

“Corporate social responsibility is no longer an option — it is emphatically and indisputably a must-do” – Cone Communications 

Despite the importance of a sustainable CSR plan, most organizations, about 26 percent, have no such plan in place. PR companies often spearhead CSR plans, working with businesses and organizations to develop a responsible set of activities that contribute to society. From green initiatives to employee volunteerism to activities and charities that contribute to economic development, CSR encompasses a wide range of pursuits. Your CSR plan should be sustainable and align with your brand’s values. It should not be a short-term solution to a communications crisis.

 

Businesses and organizations with an already tarnished reputation often piggy-back social causes to repair their own reputations. Once again, the public is savvy, and the reaction to these PR tactics is often negative. CSR is about more than donating to charity or sponsoring a good cause; it’s about providing transparency and building the accountability that grows the public’s trust.

 

What are your thoughts on corporate social responsibility? Share your insights in the comments section or tweet me @nataliepetitto.