Corporate and social responsibility (CSR) and sponsorship provided a subtle background to the news of environmentalist group, Greenpeace scaling the walls of the British Museum in London. This action closed the Museum for several hours during the City’s busy tourist period.
The organisation said it was protesting about oil company BP’s sponsorship of the Museum’s exhibition called ‘Sunken Cities’. Greenpeace believes the oil company is part of the problem of world dependency on oil and its damaging derivatives. That BP was responsible for one of the most damaging oil spills on Earth – Deepwater Horizon (an oil rig) in the Gulf of Mexico, April 2010, doesn’t go amiss by Greenpeace either. That BP should sponsor an underwater, lost city exhibition is an audacity, according to Greenpeace!
Looking at CSR then, it is seen as a directive taken by companies which observes the sustainability and impact of its operations upon its environment. It is interpreted widely and CSR manifestation differs from company to company – as it should, given differing business operations. Cynically, CSR is sometimes seen as a means for large conglomerates to ‘mythologically’ make use of tax write-offs by giving to charity or as good PR mileage in the news about ‘do-gooding’.
When investigated and operated honestly, CSR is another means of developing business brand, in building trust between you and your audience and stakeholders. If your business is able to manage a CSR programme, it won’t necessarily be a straightforward task and it will take time, especially if you’re looking at return on investment, an often intangible return. However, there is some mind-mapping that you could follow to smooth the decision making with internal and/or agency practitioners.
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· Consider your company’s strength – where are these areas?
· Break-down areas could include; customers, employees, community, government, environment, shareholders.
· Consider and have a realistic budget to deliver your programme. Falling short of what you say you’ll deliver, because you’ve not budgeted, is a CSR disaster waiting to happen (erm… crisis management anyone!?).
· Have a look at your peer group or competitors. Their CSR delivery, where healthy, could be used as a benchmark minimum for your organisation.
· Investigate your stakeholders. How can you involve them in your CSR programme as recipient and/or delivery partner?
· Check the correlating law in your area of delivery. Is what you want to deliver within the law? Are you contravening any safeguarding legislation around minors, for example? Do you need permits for using waterways, for example? Can you actually give away unwanted food to charity and if so, what type of food?
· Make sure you know where your skeletons lay (and do something good about them i.e. a decent burial?). If you don’t someone else will and will remind you of them, usually at an inopportune time.
· CSR is about nurturing relationships. Make sure you cultivate these with good fertiliser and tend your garden well, so to speak. If you regularly inspect your patch, you’re less likely to be surprised, as you’ll know what’s growing in your garden, to continue the analogy. Additionally, strong relationships will be of great refuge and demonstrate loyalty in times of crisis.
· Remember, there is no right or wrong way in your area of delivery of CSR, because of the differences between businesses.
CSR, when practiced with integrity, is a valuable method of bridging the gap between business and its environment in a harmonious, mutually beneficial way.