Business News

Working better together

By Business & Finance
05 August 2014

Ailish Smith, senior account manager with Pembroke Communications, explains how CSR can impact a company’s bottom line.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an incredibly powerful tool for businesses to give back to the community and demonstrate responsible behaviour that ultimately impacts staff, the public and customers. Irrespective of the size of your organisation, a CSR strategy should play a vital role in your business plan.

Asking whether a CSR campaign can generate increased sales is not the right question. It naturally depends on its quality. The question instead should be; what does your business need to do to ensure its CSR strategy generates business value?

The benefits of implementing an effective CSR programme are abundant. It undoubtedly builds morale internally and encourages employees to get involved and take pride in being part of a giving back exercise. It has also been proven to assist in attracting quality staff. Staff want more today from their jobs, they want to be connected with a company that has a social conscience and one that exercises this through ongoing CSR activities.

Aside from HR, a strong CSR campaign can also encourage community engagement with an organisation and place a business on the map as a contributor dedicated to improving the local environment.

A recent survey of Consumer Attitudes towards Corporate Responsibility conducted by Business in the Community Ireland indicates that there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to do more to engage their staff, customers and the local community on how they are working to achieve their goals in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The research states:

  • 89% of Irish people believe it is important that companies show a high degree of social and environmental responsibility
  • 39% believe companies should do more to contribute to society
  • 54% are unaware of any cases of particular companies helping the community or society in any way

A strong CSR plan will influence customers and create opportunities for a business to market itself based on the concepts and tactics employed. According to research by the World Federation of Advertisers and Edelman, 60% of consumers surveyed claimed to be looking for brands with a sense of purpose.

A key quality customers look for in a business is integrity. One of the most formidable ways of building credibility and demonstrating integrity as an organisation is to create relevant alignments and partnerships with not for profit entities. An excellent example of this is the shoe brand TOMS. For every pair of TOMS shoes sold around the world, one pair of new shoes is donated to a child in need.

A simple concept yet incredibly effective and the result is a solid brand built on strong ethics and worthy of consumer trust. The business has also grown to become an estimated $100m company in the eight years since it was set up.

A vital part of the process should be devising a CSR strategy that aligns with your company’s core values and purpose. At the root of this plan should be an identification of the goal of the CSR campaign and key performance indicators must be set in order to effectively monitor and measure the impact of the strategy.

While it is extremely important that key stakeholders and customers are aware of a business’ CSR activities, avoid the trap of being perceived as greenwashing. A carefully planned and executed communications plan should be devised to generate awareness and engagement on an ongoing basis in a transparent manner.

Before a company starts communicating publicly about a CSR strategy, the following checklist should be consulted:

  • Do you have a clearly articulated purposes?
  • Is the commitment credible and authentic?
  • Are you collaborating with internal and external stakeholders?
  • Do you have a clear call to action that drives participation?
  • Have you set and communicated clear, demonstrable goals?

Failing to behave responsibly in business terms can be extremely detrimental and damaging. All evidence points to the fact that businesses who invest in and actively participate in CSR activities, are emerging as leaders. If implemented candidly and leveraged in a smart way, CSR programmes can deliver positive publicity, boost corporate reputation, strengthen customer engagement as well as positively impacting internal communications. Not to mention the fulfilment of knowing that you have contributed to helping others.

Ailish Smith


Ailish Smith is a senior account manager with Pembroke Communications, part of the PSG Group. In her role at Pembroke, Smith works with clients such as Genworth Financial, LK Shields, Ireland-France Chamber of Commerce, Novartis, Compass Group Ireland and Ecclesiastical Insurance.