How to Strengthen Your Brand with CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility]
In recent years, it has become very trendy for companies to talk about CSR – Corporate Social Responisibility. But what does this really mean and which traps should you avoid?
To incorporate CSR work in the business in a way that strengthens the brand, you must have a well-developed CSR strategy. In a report, Harvard Business School has described three types of CSR strategies that a business can adopt and what these can mean.
The first is Philanthropy, the business donates money, or other types of resources without expecting to receive anything back. This is hardly a way to incorporate CSR into the company’s core business or contribute to making the business as a whole sustainable, but can be a complement to other activities. The risk, however, is that it can be seen as inauthentic if this is the only thing your business does to contribute to the CSR area, which then weakens the brand instead.
The second type of CSR strategy is the development of the value chain. As is well known, the sphere of influence of an enterprise extends both upstream and downstream, and it is important to take responsibility for your products as far as possible, both in the supply chain and later in the customer and consumer stages. By showing that you really work with this, e.g. By demanding compliance with a Code of Conduct, and following up on this, you appear to be a responsible company that has a positive impact on the brand.
The third and most successful strategy is to transform the business so that CSR becomes a fundamental part of the business strategy. In this way, CSR can become a very powerful tool for strengthening the brand. A classic example here is Patagonia whose entire business concept is about providing sustainable leisure products. For such a transformation to succeed, it is crucial that it is run at the CEO level and that everyone is onboard with the mission.
A major success factor in brand building is to build an internal culture that supports this. It is important not just to get employees to follow the policies and procedures that are being developed. Instead, the individual employee should feel commitment and pride in what the business stands for, only then can one achieve successful goals and a really good ambassador for the company’s product.
Another success factor is communicating what you do in a clear and balanced way. One trap you can end up in here is just to tell you about the successes you have had in your CSR work, the stakeholders also want to hear about the challenges that exist to make the work feel credible. Also, tell us about what has been accomplished, not just about everything that might be accomplished.
How, then, should communication take place? Yes, there are many ways. Sustainability reporting is a way to structure it all. Of course, it is good if sustainability work can be highlighted in different types of marketing, online and other places, but then always well-substantiated and without loose statements that can back the business.
Very few products are, for example. 100% “environmentally friendly” but has some kind of negative impact, even if it is small.
Provided that your company has active CSR efforts well connected to the business and that you are honest in your communication, you can attract everything from customers and investors to competent personnel to the business. This is because you show that you care.
In this way, CSR can start a positive spiral and be a decisive competitive factor, at least for those who can stand out a little extra in their industry.