It is widely known that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the way that leading companies nowadays do business, not only because it is clearly the right thing to do, but also because it is accompanied with long term benefits. One of the benefits CSR is reputable for is its ability to enchase, if not build, your business’s image and reputation. On this note it is important to emphasis the difference between image and reputation! A business’s reputation is something that is build and developed throughout its establishment, essentially how a company is perceived by its stakeholder. On the other hand a company’s image refers more so to how you want to emerge to your existing and potential customers. More specifically, Bloomberg Business Week states “it’s what you want to convey about yourself, your business, your product, your work ethic, and your professionalism combined with the strategy you’ve developed to reach your target audience”. Consequently, a company’s image is also very important to its success but can be altered in a more flexible manner in comparison to its reputation! Consequently, having and sustaining a good reputation is an absolutely fundamental asset for businesses success, due to the fact that a great part of consumers’ decision making is placed on image and reputation. Consider for instance, the damage done to Nike’s reputation from using child labor in the 90s! So, the lullaby of “sticks and stones might break your bones but words will never hurt me”, does not always apply in the business arena, word of mouth will hurt you!
So how are companies utilizing CSR towards their brand image and reputation? Well, by browsing through how companies are communicating to their stakeholders today, you will quickly find that the triple bottom line of Sustainability is transpired in the way brands are communicating and consequently how they want to be by perceived! An international taste of what is going on can be seen through Coca-Cola wishing to contribute positively towards the obesity issue taking place in the United States, as just last week Coca-Cola launched its new anti-obesity campaign. The campaign draws attention to their drink choices having low calories and made with natural sweeteners, in order to get young people active and take obesity seriously. Now, this might seem to some a “common sense” fact, but nonetheless the heart of the campaign is dedicated to help minimize obesity, hence society. The Hershey Company on the other hand, well aware of the calories captured in chocolate and knowing there is nothing you can do but indulge, came up with a different way of contributing positively to society, the company stated to source 100 percent certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines by 2020, and help eliminate child labor in the cocoa regions of West Africa. On a greener note, P&G (Procter & Gamble) launched a campaign last week to inform its vast amount of stakeholders that they are doing their bit for the environment as they continue to give preference to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and aims to reach at least 40 per cent of the pulp used in P&G’s tissue-towel products to be FSC-certified. Marks & Spencer’s is also a good example, in 2007 it announced wanting to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer, and since then its business strategy changed to Plan A. So far, their efforts are doing tremendously well, and rank 238 in the Global 500 for 2013.
The above examples are just a small sample of how businesses are communicating their brands today and the image they wish to portray of themselves towards their stakeholders! With Walmart announcing this week that it aims by 2017, to buy 70 percent of the goods it sells in U.S. stores only from suppliers using the Sustainability Index, undoubtedly we will witness an increase in CSR as companies will need to stay in the league with their competitors as well as sustain their corporate image!
Have you intergraded Sustainability into you business strategy yet?