Marketers Should Embrace CSR to Ensure ‘Survival’
27 August 2014 at 10:49 am
The days when companies considered CSR only for its PR value and media visibility appear to be long over.
Now, marketing professionals are being called upon to play their part in driving social responsibility within Australian companies.
Peak membership body The Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) recently released a report, The Good, the Generous and the Galvanic, exploring how marketers could play a more proactive role in enabling organisations to boost social, environmental and ethical performance.
The report concludes marketers have the opportunity to elevate company involvement in CSR to “a strategic contribution that defines the future of the business and possibly determines its very survival.”
The paper highlights key issues around social responsibility and their connection with marketing at multiple levels – whether through ‘green’ products, charity alignment or a more comprehensive strategic shift.
It says marketing can become the driver of change across the organisation, all the while communicating its benefits more effectively to internal and external audiences.
But how could this be achieved?
According to the research, taking ownership of social responsibility is the answer.
The paper outlines three key dimensions of CSR at which marketers may be involved:
The Good, those aspects of marketing mostly within the direct control or influence of themarketing function, such as decisions related to product, pricing, promotion and distribution. These create opportunities for demonstrating greater transparency in corporate behaviour and concern for the consumer, society and environment.
“What this shows…is ample scope for marketers to look within rather than outwards when seeking an opportunity for responsible corporate behaviour.”
At this level, the report recommends that a duty of conscience test should be applied when making day-to-day marketing decisions. While it is acknowledged that the marketer’s influence over certain elements of product, pricing and promotions, such as supply chain and labour, may be out of a marketer’s control, certain steps may be taken, including:
Through distribution, providing increased access to disadvantaged, remote or indigenous communities, promoting ethical competition, and commitment to fair retail practices.
Through promotion, ensuring truth and honesty in communications, avoidance of embellished claims, objectivity in comparative advertising, and balanced rather than stereotyped portrayal of gender roles.
Consideration of fairness in pricing structures and comparative pricing, ethical market research and social media practice.
The Generous includes any activity that signals an organisation’s commitment to giving back to society and the community whether or not there is a direct or indirect benefit to the organisation’s present or future performance.
This includes philanthropy and giving, cause-related marketing and sponsorship. The report notes the wide range of causes organisations can support from health, to human rights, to homelessness.
“Our considered view is that some degree of self-interest is a prerequisite for organisations to be continually motivated to do good while getting better.”
Given that the choices are many, marketers can play a role through:
Identifying issues that have greater resonance with customer and/or shareholder groups. According to the report, as CSR actions may also have the effect of boosting employee engagement and motivation leading to quality improvement and even productivity increases, effectively selecting causes is pivotal. If a CSR investment can resonate better with one or more target groups – employees, consumers and shareholders – the cumulative benefit to the organisation of such association can be “significant and long lasting.”
Optimally communicating company contributions so as to deliver tangible commercial value. The report notes that involvement can also enhance customer trust and company reputation and can have a longer term impact on brand preference, price differential and support a healthy bottom line – making unlocking that potential value through communication an essential step.
The Galvanic represents the emerging trend towards creating shared value, a concept integrating corporate social responsibility into an organisation’s core business model by linking community and business self-interest.
The paper asserts that social responsibility is not something organisations should take on impulsively. It should be an integral part of a business’s ethos and culture, be embedded in its DNA and embraced by its people at every level.
Marketers have the advantage of being able to exploring alignment between business strategy and social initiatives while leveraging communications to effectively promote social outcomes achieved.
The report says marketing’s expertise in organisational strategy and communicating with varied stakeholders lend it greater competence and credibility in performing this task.
“We believe marketing can bring greater convergence to this all-important area as the concept of shared value gains momentum. More so, during times when profit pressures begin to pull organisations away from their commitment to social good.”
Practical steps marketers can take to achieve this include:
Continually monitor, sense and respond to new opportunities for social initiative that have benefits for the business in the form of virgin market segments, new sources of supply, additional distribution channels or innovative operations.
Take an outside-in view of a business whether undertaking an environmental scan, performing a SWOT analysis, envisioning alternative scenarios, reviewing the competitive landscape or monitoring consumer trends and market opinions.
Develop communication strategies and tactics targeted at diverse stakeholders that require an insight into their values, attitudes, motivations, beliefs and behaviour.
Through proactivity and leadership in the CSR arena, the hopes of the report’s authors maybe come to fruition – that Australian marketers will not have to choose between profit and purpose in future, but are instead able to work in an era both can be optimally pursued.
Read the full report here.