By Nadja-Timea Scherrer, Global Impact Strategist
The idea behind Corporate Social Responsibility is that companies, apart from making a profit, should consider the impact they have on all of their stakeholders, from suppliers to the goverment and care for people and the planet.
You can meet the needs of a stakeholder by actively listening, engaging, and communicating with them. One stakeholder group are obviously the consumers. So how do you keep your CSR dialogue with them going? While Marketing is the means of direct communication between the company and its consumers, many of our clients first raise concerns about marketing their Sustainability efforts because they don't want to seem pretentious. They are also afraid of being accused of greenwashing or not being "perfect".
You don't have to be perfect to communicate your message
This is an understandable concern. Nonetheless, we disagree. The question is not if but how to communicate. Today's consumers, more often than not, demand transparency when it comes to sustainability and CSR efforts of their brands. If a brand only communicates the results of their year-long effort, consumers may be suspicious as to the authenticity of the claim.
Transparency & Authenticity is sustainable
Our advise is: don't try to be perfect, communicate as much as possible and as consistently as possible with your consumers. Don't pretend to be further ahead than you are, share your challenges, set clear goals and be honest. The CEO of FIFCO shared in an interview that he would set himself CSR goals that would be extremely hard to reach and communicate them to the world before having found a solution because this would hold him accountable and force him to find solutions. He said, every single time, he was able to complete his goals - thanks to a dedicated team of co-creating intrapreneurs. This is another important piece of advise: engage all of your stakeholders to make things happen and make sure all of them knows what you are up to - internally and externally.
We have found transparency to be key for a sustainable and loyal consumer relationship management. It aligns your consumers, and all of your other stakeholders for that matter, along shared values and a shared purpose and also reduces risks of reputational damage.
Another truth is that you have to spread the message for it to be heard and acted upon. Marketing can amplify the success of your cause and ROI.
FIFCO for instance was able to have its consumers participate in donating their time for a cause they supported. This is an extraordinary achievement in terms of social impact and community building.
Consumers want to be involved and informed about your CSR and Sustainability process and they may even help you achieve your goals in ways that you wouldn't have expected.
Honest Marketing Pledge
Take your first step towards honest and responsible Marketing practices here.