• Warren Leppik

CSR: Putting your money where your mouth is

Where did the summer go? Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is little more than a month away. Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that several articles related to the lip-service being paid to Corporate Social Responsibility caught my eye over the summer. This one in Adweek stood out: “A New Survey From The Economist Finds More Executives Talk About Social Good Than Act on It”. According to Marty Swant “48% of respondents said they felt businesses that operate with purpose beyond profit actually end up gaining a “financially competitive advantage” in their markets. However, even more—78%—said companies talk about it more than they invest in long-term initiatives to support it.”

So what’s the problem? Is it really so hard to get involved? Is it complicated? Cost prohibitive? Time intensive? I would like to take an optimistic stance and would hazard a guess that, rather than being intentionally delinquent, it has more to do with figuring out how best to get started becomes just another item on an overloaded agenda. But there are tangible business benefits, and a way to mitigate an underestimated “values-based” faux pas, by ensuring that your corporate social responsibility is more than just a plaque on the lobby wall.

In an article entitled “How to Improve Customer Relationships With Brand Authenticity” author John Turner states, “According to the Consumer Content Report from Stackla, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. Show, don’t tell. Every company should have a set of values that they stand for. But it’s not enough to just tell consumers what you believe in; you have to show them. Any company can write on its “About Us” page that they believe in giving back to the community, for instance. But that doesn’t mean much if your customers and prospects can’t see it in action. If you put a strong emphasis on giving back to the community, you had better show your customers you mean it by giving back to local charities with donations or offering your time and knowledge to empower others. It’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do. Brand authenticity will not only make your current customers happier but will also help you attract new customers by making your company stand out from the rest.”

Based on my experience and efforts in the Halton Region, here are several ways that you can apply your time, talent or treasure to making sure your organization walks the “CSR” talk:

1) 100 Guys Who Care Oakville

2) United Way Workplace Campaign

3) Basket Brigade

4) Cognition Cause Marketing Program Gift an impact story video to a registered charity for use on your web site and social media to boost volunteerism and donations, that will also fill your content marketing calendar with emotional, engaging content.

Beyond just doing what you said you were going to do, the ancillary benefits to being a good corporate citizen are many. It brings to mind interviews I did for the United Way of Halton and Hamilton last year about involvement with their Workplace Campaigns.

According to Laurie Davidson, Regional Vice President at RBC Royal Bank, “Employees today are doing a lot more homework on the employer that they choose to work with. They want to work for and employer that is socially responsible, that’s giving and want ways that they can get involved. I often have interviews with individuals today where they’re interviewing me as much as I’m interviewing them. Because they want to know how does RBC give back. They want to know how RBC gets involved in the community. They want to know how they can get involved more with RBC in ways that we’re giving back to the community”.

Similarly, Jarvis Sheridan, Partner at O’Connor MacLeod Hanna LLP believes “We have an enhanced profile because of our involvement with the United Way Workplace Campaign. People respect the fact that we are not just a bunch of money-grubbing lawyers. We are there to feel that our responsibility to the community is being met in very many way. Because we do have that responsibility. We’re doing OK and we need to give back”. Joan LaPointe, Controller/Office Manager at O’Connor MacLeod Hanna LLP agrees adding “Just pride, at the end of day. Our staff know that for us to have 100% participation is unique and they’re very proud to be part of a firm where everyone is committed to this cause”

Laurie adds “An extraordinary client experience is only achieved through an extraordinary employee experience. You are not going achieve one without the other. So, how you get that is all the pieces that come with you. Making sure we’re connected to the community, making sure we have partners like United Way that will help us deliver on that employee experience that helps your employee. Because your employee is there and feeling in a very different way. They are now delivering on a differentiated client experience.”

Finally, in a content marketing world gone mad, with people making up useless listicles to feed a hungry content marketing calendar, what you do in the community becomes a gold mine of authentic feel good stories, proof of your company’s values. Beyond text, with the Cognition Cause Marketing Program, you can harness the emotional power of impact stories from people whose lives were changed by the charities you support. The resulting videos build awareness of the need for what the charity does, motivates more people to get involved and shows quite clearly that your Corporate Social Responsibility program is the real deal.

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