Marketing of Corporate Responsibility Efforts

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Marketing of Corporate Responsibility Efforts
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

CSR has become both a strategic approach through which competitive advantages can be created as well as overall social benefits. Due to the increased awareness among conscious consumers of social and environmental issues, CSR-initiatives have now also become an effective strategic marketing approach that can improve the corporate image, corporate reputation and value of companies. Lii, Wu and Ding (2013) identify 3 types of CSR-initiatives in sustainable marketing that all have a positive effect on consumers' brand awareness and perceived credibility of campaigns:
1. Sponsorship: An investment paid to a property in the form of cash, people or for example equipment that in turn provides companies access to an exploitable commercial potential related to the property.
2. Philanthropy: This type of marketing refers to a donation in cash or in-kind to a social/charitable cause without expecting a return. The main reason to give such a donation is just to “do the right thing”. Although there are no (direct) commercial expectations, it is found that such donations are beneficial to organizations through the creation of positive attitudes towards the giving organization at consumers and the workforce.
3. Cause-related Marketing (CrM): This refers to the donation of a particular amount of money or a product or service offered to a non-profit organization or to a social cause. This can be an important strategy because many consumers believe that they have a duty to contribute to a charitable cause. In general, people have a positive attitude towards CrM. This type of sustainable marketing has a relatively weaker effect, because consumers need to buy a certain product/service while sponsorship and philanthropy do not require any effort.
Source: Lii, Y., Wu, K and M. Ding (2013) “Doing Good Does Good? Sustainable Marketing of CSR and Consumer Evaluations “Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management Vol.20 Iss.1 pp. 15-28

Pros and Cons of Cause-related Marketing
Ismael Bena - MBA, Management Consultant, Netherlands
In regard to the mentioned facets of sustainable marketing, I believe CrM is often perceived weaker, especially when practitioners (mis)use CrM for 'Green Washing', and the public recognizes it as such. If well structured and communicated, also through the workforce, CrM can be a powerful tool, especially for CSR image building.

As Collins (1993) argued, “… it (CrM) can generate the long-term value needed for a company to survive and achieve competitive advantage”. In principle, CrM has the ability to increase revenue, enhance image and create employee buy-in.
Skepticism: consumers are getting more skeptical and conduct research on companies and their social intentions, if CSR is reputation driven, consumers might shy away, knowing that favourable reputation enables firms to charge premium prices and advance their corporate position more than their social cause. And... “Well-reputed firms have a competitive advantage within their industries” (Fombrun and Shanley, 1990).

Inherent Conflict of Interest on Corporate Social Responsility
Jevin k. Kiriago, Student (MBA), Kenya
Some people argue that there is always a conflict of interest on corporate social responsibility. In their view it is just a marketing strategy, it's not 'true' corporate social responsibility, like when a firm is painting buildings for customers and branding it at the same with their organizational logo.

Corporate Responsibility in South Africa
Philip Coetzer Phd, Business Consultant, South Africa
Well done Anneke.
The situation and lessons learnt in South Africa are interesting and could give you another perspective.

Implementation Procedures for CSR Implementation
Ismael Bena - MBA, Management Consultant, Netherlands
@Jevin K. Kiriago: In regard to your (emailed) question "... In your view are there any procedures or initiative that are to be followed when advocating for CSR", I would like to share my view on this and welcome other group members to lean in

I believe CSR initiatives should be related to the industry in which the company operates, if it is to reap acceptance from financial stakeholders (shareholders), sufficiently to support institutionalization, which in turn, can withstand changes in management, financial cycles or public pressures (Epstein & Roy, 2003). Often the assessment of shareholder’s approval for a specific CSR trajectory is complicated, especially since communication with this stakeholder group is more difficult and fragmented in data collection methods, e.g. executed through surveys.

As studies indicated, the absence of a clear CSR strategy, which normally requires effective measurement tools to track social performance and can demonstrate profitability enhancement (over a longer term), is often the reason why key executives and (some) stakeholders attitudes fail to yield into the buy-in required for engagement in such programs (PwC, 2002).

Another crucial consideration is the buy-in from the workforce. When CSR programs are (solely) driven by image enhancement (i.e. P.R.) they become highly sensitive for failure when the employees don’t support and promote the efforts. When rejected by this stakeholders group, society often regards such CSR efforts as green washing, which, in turn, will negatively affect the companies’ image, position, etc.

There are various other considerations which are important during the development of a CSR program. The before mentioned groups, I believe, are pivotal for any (CSR) strategy, for it to succeed.

Source: Epstein, M. & Roy, M.J. (2003) ‘Making the Business Case for Sustainability, Linking Social and Environmental to Financial Performance’, The Journal of Corporate Citizenship. 9, pp. 79-96.


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Ismael Bena - MBA
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