Corporate social responsibility has become the new rage within the PR community. Companies have been practicing CSR for years, but it seems to have gained new resonance, especially in the post-Enron environment of eroded public confidence in corporations.
But, what it CSR and how can one harness its benefits without sounding like self-serving come-on?
CSR is more than just donating money or getting involved in community causes, it is also engaging stakeholders in their concerns, driving principled behavior through strong corporate values, and using the corporate influence to ensure a sustainable world. CSR must be at the heart of the corporate culture and have a permanent seat at the management table to be effective.
CSR is public relations of the highest magnitude because it requires actions and not just words.
Valero Energy Corporation
Last month, we invited Mary Rose Brown, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Valero Energy Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and North America’s leading oil refiner, to talk to us about its corporate culture of social responsibility.
In the packed room, Mary outlined that CSR is all about values. If the people know unfailingly what the values of the organization are, they can respond with confidence to any circumstance. For instance, a manager knew he was allowed to open the gas lines at the refinery for neighbors and responders after Hurricane Rita. Also, CSR is a bottom-line proposition. Valero has turned around many a non-performing refinery using their culture-based approach.
McDonald’s Blogger Bob Langert maybe says it best in his most recent post, “Do We Care?” He starts to address the issues that people are worried about like energy efficiency, food choices, organic foods and supply chain environmental impacts. He points out that McDonalds has a vested self-interest in reducing energy costs.
But the thing that most people wonder about companies is, “do they really care about what I, the little guy, thinks?” The implied answer being “no.”
Blogging is one way to get at that question. By engaging your stakeholders on a regular basis, you can build corporate good will. Bob doesn’t completely answer the questions, but he has started a dialogue. He also points us to resources, like reports from around the world about McDonald’s CSR programs.
Bonus Tip: Check out the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire Service. The CSR Wire delivers press releases and news announcements to journalists at major media outlets that cover CSR, investment professionals, NGOs and nonprofits, sustainability and CSR organizations and corporate CSR officers.