By Samantha Cox (@samanthamcox)
Corporate responsibility…corporate social responsibility…cause marketing…cause-related marketing…corporate citizenship…corporate giving…corporate philanthropy…community involvement…community relations.…………….HUH???
Confused? Feeling the slow creep of a migraine setting in? You’re not alone. With so many different terms being used today to represent an array of increasingly important initiatives, it’s easy to get lost in this overwhelming forest of phrases.
Fortunately, one thing is consistent: being a good corporate citizen once a year on Earth Day is no longer enough. A successful and valuable corporate responsibility platform should be a part of your company’s business plan, taking into consideration how you impact not only the environment, but your employees, their families, the community and society-at-large. And underneath the umbrella of corporate responsibility is where you should find cause marketing and the rest of its befuddling friends.
So while definitions may vary, here’s how we define them at CRT/tanaka:
Corporate Responsibility: There’s a reason why we’ve dropped the word “social” when talking about our corporate responsibility platform: there’s much more to it than the social aspect. Corporate responsibility refers to an organization’s recognizing and taking responsibility for the impact of its activities on stakeholders, society and the environment. Others have begun to drop it as well: you’ll notice that the link to Tiffany & Co.’s platform says “CSR,” but all the copy simply says “Corporate Responsibility.”
Corporate Citizenship: Refers to the business strategy that shapes the values underpinning a company’s mission and the choices each day made by its executives, managers and employees as they engage with society. Four core principles define the essence of corporate citizenship: minimize harm; maximize benefit; be accountable and responsive to key stakeholders; and, be accountable for financial results.
Corporate Philanthropy/Corporate Giving: Generally refers to a company’s contributions to non-profit organizations or causes, including monetary contributions, grants, in-kind donations and providing company expertise to address specific needs. The term also is used to describe a company’s overall giving philosophy and activities.
Community Involvement: A corporation’s community involvement platform is simply a framework for its activities in the community. It provides structure and definition to the priorities and interests specific to that corporation.
Community Relations: Refers to the various methods companies use to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate. Community relations isn’t exclusive to corporate responsibility; it can be a vital part of many marketing efforts, from launching a new product to crisis management and more.
Corporate Volunteerism: Refers to businesses that support, encourage and incentivize employees to take part in volunteer activities in their communities, which can include company-sponsored volunteer projects and programs as well as employees’ individual volunteer experiences that are supported by the company in some manner.
Sustainability: Most people immediately think of environmental sustainability, but business sustainability is just as important. Companies must adhere to sustainable business practices that facilitate growth – without it, there are no means (financial or otherwise) to give back in the first place.
Cause Marketing/Cause-Related Marketing: Possibly the biggest cause for confusion relates to the difference between corporate responsibility and cause marketing. Generally speaking, cause marketing (or cause-related marketing) refers to a marketing approach that links a company, brand or industry with a social issue or cause for mutual benefit. A company’s cause marketing program should complement and support its corporate responsibility platform, not act as a separate entity. And a big differentiator here is the word “marketing,” which is what makes the efforts mutually beneficial to both parties – an important part of cause marketing’s definition. Examples:
- Tying product sales directly to donations, such as the Dawn Saves Wildlife campaign, which donates $1 to wildlife foundations for every bottle purchased.
- Seeking to generate awareness or educate the public about an issue, like Tyson’s Know Hunger campaign.
- Encouraging consumer and/or employee engagement, such as Nature Valley’s Trail View, a microsite dedicated to expanding the brand’s commitment to preserving national parks.
So, have you got it all figured out? I’m guessing no – and that’s okay. Because at the end of the day, the terminology is less important than the actual efforts you make. And remember – it’s not just Millennials who expect you to have a corporate responsibility platform. Today’s senior leadership increasingly recognizes the importance of being good corporate citizens. So the way I see it, you can call it whatever you want – as long as you’re doing it, and you’re doing it right.
How has your company, brand, etc. handled the confusions/misconceptions around terms like corporate responsibility or cause marketing? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.
Photos: nabeel-ci.blogspot.com, blog.bird-rescue.org.