Where tenets and standards merge into a mindset

12 febbraio 2011

YI recently graduated in Corporate Communications, after having left a bit aside this blog.

Yesterday, while tidying up my desk and scanning some notes I took drafting my master thesis, I found something interesting: scattered thoughts about a post I read last November.

I remember it was an attempt to outline the idea of CSR I later structured , in the thesis, starting from a critical literature review on Corporate Social Responsibility,  Stakeholder Theory, and Social Media.

The post at issue, written by Akhila Vijayaraghavan, is about the case of a firm which has an interesting CSR profile, but that “slips-up” or it turns out that it is involved in something blameworthy.

What happens when the market, that firm target market, discover such things?
(For concrete examples please check the post.)

Actually in this case, condemning an organization, a responsible organization (whatever this statement means), could be either correct or not, it depends obviously on the case.
We’re talking about the subtle distinction among the physiological limits of a blueprint, such as CSR should be, cause related marketing and greenwashing (which I’ve already talked about here – in italian).
I don’t even want to spend a word on greenwashing, on the contrary I reckon more than just worth to define the area where this (CSR) blueprint has to reside.

If we refuse to consider CSR as a path‘s destination, a paradigm strictly related to the corporate governance, we won’t never see a firm as an evolving organism as it is. We will see it as an entity, somewhat “evil”, spending bucks on good causes more or less far from the core business, and we will start to talk about Cause Related Marketing and not CSR.

What should an organization (CSR) blueprint look like?
In my opinion, it should look like a prelude of its future business, a process that describes the way organization reads its wide environment, nowadays complex like never before, from now onwards.

So to sum it up, where is the thin line between CSR and greenwashing and CSR and Cause Related Marketing?
Lots of you could say it lays on the coherence with the core business or on a real integration with the strategy, and nothing could be more correct.
But I think, the bar over which there is only “pure” CSR and no trace of greenwashing or cause marketing, stands where tenets and standards merge into a mindset.
I totally agree with Akhila Vijayaraghavan when she says (my comments are in squared brackets):

My bar for good CSR performance [I’d also say for good CSR in general] is simple, perhaps even simplistic: (a) Is the company making an effort to constantly improve and innovate? [the vision] (b) How does it respond towards slip-ups? [this could be a parameter to evaluate the resilience of the CSR blueprint] (c) Looking holistically, how good is their sustainability profile? [How realistic is its reading of its future business?]

CSR-image is not one single thing. It is a series of events… unfortunate or otherwise.

It’s an astonishing idea of CSR, isn’t it?

It includes that it is not a sort of bribe a firm pays to prevale in a market during a particular lucky period (lucky for the firm, otherwise the “CSR expenditure” will be the first to be cut), it’s a vision, a journey…an entire world to build…

By the way the firm will never read correctly its environment alone, without knowing who’s part of it, who’s in a certain way collectively and often unconsciously deciding where we’re going.
They’re stakeholders, the lever of the entire reasoning, on whom I’ll return to in an upcoming post.

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