Corporate Marketing (2) The role of CSR...

In all the debate about the value of CSR one truth is too often ignored. The purported return on investment of CSR depends on stakeholders understanding and valuing its benefits... Consumers must value more ethical products; suppliers must value better treatment; investors must value brand sustainability; partners must value better engagement; communities must value local investment. We, as a society, must value more respectful, mutually sensitised relationships. This is about stakeholders placing a value on the personalised expression of corporate values. CSR is about building values-based relationships that sustain brands. Organisations that wish to build CSR into the fabric of a business organisation therefore face a very simple challenge - to exceed stakeholders' values expectations in dimensions that offer demonstrable value - to both sides. Where corporate and stakeholder values collude, value can be created - through the revenues and opportunities which flow from exceding motivational, behavioral and attitudinal expectations. Where they collide, value will be destroyed - through the frictional costs and risks of weak trust, loss of belief and low commitment. CSR will come to nothing if the actions that express these values are not actually valued in the stakeholder marketplace. Often this value will flow from revenues - charging a premium for peace of mind, or some higher order emotional benefit. But benefits of those deeper relationships will also come through more effective transactions - at lower environmental cost, lower time cost and lower financial cost. Let's be blunt here. If your staff are happy and fulfilled, you could maybe even pay them a little less - or certainly differently! In a very real sense then, CSR is a driver of corporate marketing - susceptible to the same rigour, research and planning disciplines of any other marketing effort. The essence of this Marketing is effective dialogue...making an offer, matching it to the needs of stakeholders, delivering - and then, most crucially, checking that you've delivered in order to reinforce and protect the value that has been created. Just as organisations build maps of their customers value experience, so they should map their stakeholders values experiences. Just as they research customers to identify unmet value demands, so they should research stakeholders to identify unmet values-needs. CSR is the attempt to build brand-consistent, mutually beneficial, values-based relationships.


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