Navigating the 'CSR Buzz' for Reputation Advantage

Advancing society's interests is influencing investment decisions globally due to the increasing power of consumers and employees advocating for their favorite brands to be more transparent and accountable for their business operations.

Against the backdrop of our lowest trust environment ever, caused by a polarized political climate, disturbing world events, untrustworthy social and business practices, companies are being further impacted in an already challenging operating environment - creating a 'show and prove it' to me marketplace among key stakeholders.

In fact, according to research conducted by Gallup International, 62% of people around the world do not trust large national or global companies to operate in society's interest.

As a result, CEO's and their management teams are being increasingly bombarded with multiple issues that need to be addressed such as compliance, governance, environmental responsibility, diversity, responsibility-driven marketing, as well as accountability for their charitable contributions. All in conjunction with providing healthier returns for investors.

With e-marketing and 'Word-of-Mouth' marketing further driving stakeholder empowerment and demand for greater transparency, companies need to engage with their social purpose as both a necessity and business opportunity.

'Conscious Commerce,' now a $31.7 billion services market, is the evolution of a management paradigm for CEO's and their management teams to help safeguard a company's reputation and business operations. Also, it is a vital extension to the corporate agenda.

Early adopters such as Patagonia and Microsoft, who created and implemented sustaining programs, have enjoyed positive results and well deserved acknowledgement. While other companies have been quick to postpone costs and and/or are flocking to the cause with fragmented approaches that can lead to consequences down the road.

From the outset, it is critical to identify and prioritize social issues that matter the most to stakeholders. Then, properly align them with a company's reputation management and performance.

Companies that implement sustaining, long-term programs will mitigate reputation risk and harm to its business, people and the environment. Also, they will win back stakeholder trust and loyalty, boost performance and competitive edge.