CSR Viewed Cynically but Not Always
CSR is definitely a key factor in reputation building. However, the public remains cynical and skeptical about whether it is a pure public relations play (as research from INITIALS says, not me) and nothing more. A survey from INITIALS Marketing in the U.K. found that 68% of consumers will not buy from a company with a bad reputation and nearly one-third (31%) regard company corporate citizenship as no more than a stunt. They are suspicious of corporate citizenship that does not jive with the company’s reputation. The dissonance keeps them from buying certain company’s products and services and remaining uncertain about selecting brands. Despite this skepticism and reticence, shoppers in the U.K. expect companies to be good citizens and give to their communities. Nearly one-half (46%) understand that companies are needed to help support local community projects, despite their cynicism. Sounds like the classic catch-22. The simple answer is to build authentic programs that serve the needs of both the community at large and businesses as well as the economy.
What kind of company initiative do consumers in the U.K. like best? Sponsorships top the list as the most effective form of CSR (72% say so). Also important is helping people get apprenticeships (60%). I agree especially with the latter. Companies can do better at training less advantaged individuals with internships. Building reputation by helping others learn a trade and join the workforce is a smart reputation-building agenda because it fits a clear need and benefits everyone.
I just learned about the Ladders for London program led by the London Evening Standard. Here is the honor roll of companies participating. The idea is to help unemployed young adults get training in the workplace through paid apprenticeships. The campaign which is working with City Gateway, a charity, is going gangbusters. In 10 weeks from its launch last fall, 200+ organizations signed up and nearly 600 apprentices were hired. The program also works with six universities to provide certification and training skills. Prince Andrew endorsed the campaign as well. They are now on course to get 1,000 young people into jobs in 2013. This is a CSR program that can only build trust and support among consumers.