Over the past few months, there have been some interesting and insightful conversations among peers in my Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) class over the importance of CSR to businesses. The need for companies to embrace championing CSR initiatives as an essential ingredient to brand affinity and growth.
One may start by asking what CSR is. To put it simply, it is giving back to the society. However, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines it best as “the continuous commitment by businesses to behave ethically and improve the lives of their workforce, their families, and the local community as well as the society at large.”
Companies might not feel obligated to undertake CSR activities because they are not compelled by law but there is a growing importance to be socially responsible. This can come in different forms: a decision to be friendly towards the environment, employee volunteerism, or charitable giving. Whatever initiative companies decide to venture into, it’s a win-win for the organization and community.
It is evident that here in Ghana, companies that partake in CSR interventions have some level of brand love, trust and loyalty from customers. A consumer is happy to emotionally connect and associate with brands that take a stance on social issues and show their support. To name a few: MTN Heroes of Change, Airtel Touching Lives, Tigo’s Shelter for Education, AirtelTigo’s Yen Nkosuo Nti, Vodafone Healthline, Newmont’s Gold4Gold reading programme, Awake Purified Drinking Water as Ghana’s first charity-driven water brand are among many others laudable initiatives that impact people and the society at large.
Limitations such as cost, lack of ownership and sustenance of the CSR projects might demotivate companies to undertake CSR projects, but CSR should be appreciated as an investment. Companies must develop a CSR strategy as part of their overall corporate values.
One key path to make headway is to make CSR strategic intent and not an afterthought. It is therefore advisable for companies to put together a budget and resources to champion CSR projects.
While companies are urged to act socially responsible, it is admirable to see public figures also being accountable and championing good causes. For example, Kwami Sefa Kayi’s Kokrokoo Charities aimed at giving mothers hope and keeping children alive with the provision of incubators across Ghana, Yvonne Nelson’s Glaucoma Foundation raising awareness and conveying messages on glaucoma, and Tima Kumkum’s Foundation among other notable ones.
Being socially responsible creates a good perception about your brand. It shows you care about the people and the society in which you operate. In short, CSR can make people see your company as a positive force in society. The initiatives to raise awareness on social issues or the donation to a good cause will keep your brand top of mind.
It’s not too late for companies to act responsibly towards society through sustainable CSR initiatives. Look around, that old school that needs a spruce up with a little paint, or that library that lacks books and computers can be a start.
More and more businesses should consider how they can give back to the society and not operate with the sole aim of making profit at the expense of consumers and society.
Don’t just operate. Be socially responsible for positive brand recognition and for the greater good of people and society.