It’s not all about the PR – CRO Conference

Kudos to Jay Whitehead and The CRO team for rallying up the diverse panelists, attendees and topics at last Thursday’s corporate responsibility conference. No wonder Jay’s impressive moderation stamina is attributed to running marathons. Focus is the name of the game, after all.

Notable company CSR initiatives and discussion topics included reducing water, waste and energy consumption, philanthropic and community support, health and safety, labor practices and Sarbanes Oxley compliance.

‘Slay False Gods’ could not have been a more appropriate term stated by Douglas Baker, CEO & Chairman of Ecolab. The major takeaways of the day were all about stepping out from under the veil, getting real about the issues and sustainability.

It goes without saying that CEO’s of companies need to make profit and justifying the business reasons for CSR still remains a challenge for some. CSR should be considered a long-term solution, rather than a short term gain – still the current mindset. However, companies are making major strides towards changes in business operations and transparency - and rightly view this as an ongoing ‘improvement’ process.

Following is some ‘food for thought’, as companies continue to evolve in this new management paradigm:

Call for greater leadership: CSR programs need to be endorsed at the top, as a key part of the corporate agenda, and then infused throughout the organization - business, marketing and communications. How else can we rally the troops?

Stakeholder liaisons: Harness the power of key stakeholders and communicate with them regularly. Solicit the knowledge and opinions of customers. It is also a powerful tool to track and influence patterns of behaviour.

Sustainability: Adopt business practices and create programs that are for the long term. To coin the old phrase – ‘Rome was not built overnight.’

Company culture and values: Conduct a cultural assessment of employees and poll them about social causes of most concern to them. Then, include them in initiatives as a motivational incentive. Several companies have demonstrated improved employee performance and satisfaction.

The PR machine: Stakeholders want the facts and PR should be engaged at the right stage of CSR program evolution. Also, ensure authentic positioning, messaging and proof points. It is a vital component of risk mitigation and will enhance recognition and acknowledgement for a company really 'Doing Good in Society.'