There are two restaurants within equal distance of your office: Restaurant A and Restaurant B.
Both serve similar food, at similar prices. Their menus are nearly identical. The service is identical. On the surface, they are virtually indistinguishable. Except for a few small differences:
Restaurant A sources their food locally; Restaurant B does not.
Restaurant A provides a clean, safe working environment for their employees; Restaurant B? Not so much.
Restaurant A has a robust recycling program and responsibly disposes of its waste. Restaurant B sends all their waste to the landfill.
Knowing this, which restaurant would you choose?
Clearly, you would choose Restaurant A. And you wouldn’t be alone.
According to a 2013 study by Cone Communications, given similar price and quality, 91% of consumers are likely to switch to brands that are associated with good causes.
Of course this is an oversimplified example, but it illustrates a valuable point: Businesses that are also good corporate citizens are favored in the eyes of consumers.
And it’s not just about clients and customers. A wide range of stakeholders are becoming increasingly sensitive to the impact that businesses have on people and the environment. Employees, investors, trade associations, public agencies and the community at large are demonstrating a preference for socially responsible businesses.
Still, many companies struggle with effectively communicating their Corporate Social Responsibility message.
If no one knows that your company cares—and has the data to back it up—how can they express their preference for sustainable business? If you don’t know the differences between Restaurant A and B, how can you make the decision to support the more responsible of the two?
And that’s the point: It’s not enough to be doing good if no one knows about it.
You have to inform the public of the good you’re doing, and just as importantly, where you are striving to do better. To maximize the value of your CSR efforts, you have to give stakeholders meaningful information, to share the data and stories about how your business is making a difference, and why it matters.
And you don’t have to have “sustainability” in your job title to realize the benefits of effectively communicating to your stakeholders.
With a proper engagement strategy, effective CSR communications can benefit people in a variety of roles, from the obvious (Corporate Communications, Marketing and PR) to the less obvious (Investor Relations, Procurement, and Government/Public Affairs).
Effective CSR communications can help you sell, recruit, retain, engage, influence, and position your company as a leader.
While simple altruism may drive your corporate responsibility efforts, the reality is that if you’re not effectively communicating your message, you’re missing out on an opportunity. To truly maximize the value of your CSR efforts, you have to connect with stakeholders in a meaningful way.
Of course it takes planning, but with the right strategy in place, the benefits can be far greater than expected.