Growing sustainability through CSR
Social responsibility programmes can help to improve a company’s public image as well as growing the bottom line
There is a growing expectation that brands should have a purpose beyond merely profit. A corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy is one way that corporates can make a positive change in the communities in which they operate while at the same time growing the company’s brand reputation.
A good brand strategy carefully intertwines a well-executed CSR strategy, says Beatrice Scharneck, district HR manager for Bureau Veritas Southern Africa, a testing, inspection and certification company which recently completed a month-long campaign around social justice, education and socioeconomic upliftment in the regions in which its employees live and work.
The campaign encouraged all employees to commit to making a difference in the lives of others through a pledge ceremony. This was followed by weekly activations where the company paid visits and made donations to various beneficiaries including orphanages, schools, safe houses and animal shelters. The company plans to bring the ethos of social change alive by ensuring an annual calendar of sustainable and long-term change initiatives.
“A sustainable CSR programme ensures that the brand builds on its positive image in the market. Customers support brands that resonate with their causes and have a sense that they are also giving back to communities based on the CSR initiatives of the organisation,” says Scharneck, adding that the reason CSR builds brand equity is largely psychological.
Social responsibility, she says, not only helps to improve a company’s public image but also helps to improve the bottom line. “Customers who resonate with your cause will not be afraid to vote with their wallets, even if it’s at a premium price.”
She maintains that social responsibility increases a company’s attractiveness to investors. “Many of the sustainability indices look at environmental, social and economic performance. Organisations whose CSR programmes include environmental and social causes ultimately increase investor confidence that the brand has good functional and intentional purpose.”
The big take-out
Social responsibility programmes can help to improve a company’s public image as well as growing the bottom line.
Intentional purpose of a brand strategy, she believes, is often more effective than functional purpose. Consumers want to feel a connection to the brand, a sense of belonging and community. A sound CSR strategy will help to build on the brand’s intentional purpose, which in turn builds brand value.
In addition to addressing societal problems, social responsibility has numerous benefits for companies, says Scharneck. It supports vital assets such as goodwill, trust and a good reputation and improves an organisation’s dynamics by providing employees with a sense of belonging and community.