A stellar reputation online is like money in the bank. The value just keeps compounding annually until you end up richer than you thought possible. One of the biggest ways companies can influence the perception of their reputation is through corporate social responsibility. Corporate Social Responsibility, otherwise known as CSR, is the acknowledgment that companies must be ethical players in their communities and not just cold-blooded enterprises that maximize profits at the expense of social welfare. Companies that adopt CSR ethics in their day-to-day operations end up impressing their customers and their employees, and this, in turn, results in a trusting relationship that helps create more income and opportunities. However, leveraged correctly, CSR will help you manage your reputation online, whether it is being impacted by an in-house scandal or slanderous accusations. In a day and age when even one maligning tweet or review can go viral, ruining a carefully crafted corporate image in a nanosecond, it pays to put some social capital in the bank for rainy days.
Find a Role Model and Emulate Them
If words like “transparency” and “sustainability” seem foreign to your business model, it is time to take a look at the big players to see how they have managed to adopt these ethics into their business model. CSR is about being a conscientious player in the community, whether it is by recycling your trash or upholding certain business standards that enforce honesty and integrity in the workplace. To get a handle on how this can be done, take a look at some of the big players that have made the Responsibility Institute’s “Top 10 list” for the 2015 CSR RepTrak rankings. It may come as no surprise that Google is number 1. However, Microsoft is number 2 and the Walt Disney Company is number 3. What are these companies doing so well in CSR that they managed to be in the top three? Let’s take a look.
This company has tons of data to sort through and store in server farms that can eat up a lot of energy. Yet, they have made a commitment to make sure their data centers used 50 percent less energy than typical data centers. In addition, they committed $1 billion to renewable energy projects. Finally, the use of email can help save trees and they encourage businesses to adopt their email application to help save the planet.
This company used to be in the top spot before Google took it over. It is well known for many philanthropic activities that helped to get it some positive social capital. They’re proud of their social accomplishments and even list them in a “Corporate Citizenship” page. They list $75 million going towards helping to expand access to computer science for youths around the world, $2 million in product donations to non-profits, and $1 billion in employee giving. All these activities help them to rank well, but also help them to sell software. Thus, just because business has to be motivated by profits, it does not mean it can’t also be a good social citizen too.
The Walt Disney Company
The three areas that The Walt Disney Company focuses on to increase their reputation and CSR score are: Volunteerism, environmental protection, and community action. For that reason, you will see them provide aid to disaster victims, like they did in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Proceeds of some of their films also go to protect and conserve natural habitats.
Be Proactive to Manage Your Reputation
Once you have a good idea how they made it to the top, it’s a simple thing to emulate them. You just need to be proactive and understand what areas of social responsibility are in line with your business model or you can impact through a change in your business model. Follow these steps and you will have a large influence on how others perceive your business as a social partner in the cause to do good in the world, and not just make profits.
Pick a Cause to Support That Aligns With Your Brand
What do you want to promote as your company’s cause? Is it the environment? Fair wages? Quality of life? Sustainability? There are so many different causes out there that will appeal to Millennials and help them put a human face on a corporate entity. It’s best to choose a cause that you can either influence and make better or one that ties into your business products and services. In this way, people are also reminded that you understand that your business doesn’t thrive unless we protect and preserve the resources that make business possible in the first place. Pick some long-term projects as well as short-term ones to keep your company in the spotlight.
Engender Trust Through Transparency
Next, you will need to be transparent about where the money goes in these causes and how it creates a lasting impact. You want hard facts and real projects. It may mean that you partner with a local non-profit to help them with their mission instead of starting an entire project on your own. If you can’t partner, you can always sponsor several local communities that have the same social goals that you do. If you are changing your own business model, you need to be very clear how this impact social goals and why it’s important to everyone. You will need to up your communication skills and be interactive with people who contact your company online or on social networks to address any inconsistencies in your values that they may spot. Then, fix them.
Tell Your Company’s Story
You will need to get creative about how to tell your company’s story to help people understand why those social goals are important to you, the owner, or to the business model as a whole. You will want to promote these values online through social media, press releases, and other advertising. Don’t keep the story to yourself. Make sure to publish it widely so that your company is linked to the social values you want to promote and you are held accountable to them too, through transparency.
Start Small and Local
The journey of a mile starts with a single step. So, you have to start small, with your local community and audience to gain a local reputation that follows you across state or country borders. If you aren’t doing good in your community, it’s not likely you’ll generate a great reputation elsewhere and it will always be hampered by criticism from the local community. Make sure to engage the locals to make sure they are always on board with your projects and business plans so that they become avid promoters of your business.
Take a Family Approach
Engage people to be proactive with you. If you can inspire others to follow you down the road to CSR, then you will be making a larger impact and have a larger voice. For instance, you might sponsor a local social project with the aim that for every $1 someone gives, your company will match or exceed it by a specific amount. It will also show that you know how to network and take the family approach and will boost your reputation simply by the number of people who are involved in your projects and goals.
One thing you do not want to engage is a practice called “greenwashing.” In this type of storytelling, you take an otherwise bad set of social or environmental outcomes and you twist the facts to make them appear good. For instance, you might say your product is natural, and thus good for the environment, but later everyone finds out that that particular “natural” product depletes the rainforest. Consumers are too smart for greenwashing and it never pays to be deceptive in advertising. Instead of enhancing your reputation, greenwashing leads to instant downgrading.
The Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility
Once you have some CSR clout under your belt, you will notice a few perks of establishing CSR goals. Your customers tend to trust you more and become more loyal brand buyers. The good public relations you got from CSR goals also create a buffer zone that maintains your good reputation, even despite scandals or criticism. People are simply willing to give you a second chance due to your past history. The last benefit of reputation management through CSR is that you will find that it is much easier to attract top talent to your company due to your rising reputation. People want to work for you and that makes it easier to stay ahead of the competition without any extra effort on your part.
Reputation Management (2015) What Corporate Social Responsibility Can Do For Your Reputation. Retrieved from: https://www.reputationmanagement.com/blog/2015/8/10/what-corporate-social-responsibility-can-do-for-your-reputation
Forbes (2016) 5 CSR Trends That Will Blossom in 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanmcpherson/2016/01/08/5-csr-trends-that-will-blossom-in-2016/#2715e4857a0b21e8deeb742a
Business 2 Community (2014) 5 Companies Doing Social Responsibility Right. Retrieved from: http://www.business2community.com/social-business/5-companies-corporate-social-responsibility-right-0951534#XM3KKC7W7hbziXll.97