September is ethics month for PRSA and fittingly BUPRSSA’s first speaker of the year presented on corporate social responsibility. Last Thursday, September 18, 2014, BUPRSSA welcomed Simon Bowers, senior account supervisor at CONE Communications. Bowers gave an engaging presentation on the history of CSR in America. He explains how CSR has its beginnings in the environmental movement of the 1960s and has evolved into an important part of ethical business practices and a specialized division of the communication industry.
People want to feel good about the companies with which they do business. It’s up to businesses to implement practices that people want to support and often times it is up to communication professionals to convince businesses of the importance of CSR. From a traditional business perspective, corporate social responsibility isn’t just about pleasing customers and helping society. CSR also contributes to a company’s bottom line. Bowers referenced a study that found that people are not only more likely to trust and view positively a company that has good CSR but they are also more likely to buy from a company with good CSR. Ethical business practices not only enhance a company’s reputation but also help attract more customers.
It is up to communication professionals to help companies see the importance of building CSR into the brand and mission of a company from the beginning. It is too late to respond to a crisis after it happens and a company’s image can be tarnished forever by one incident. It will be many years before a consumer can think of BP Oil without thinking of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Images of collapsed factories in Bangladesh and injured employees are seared into consumers’ minds. Companies need to be proactive and implement sustainable, ethical practices on every level of operation to avoid crises and negative attention. Corporate social responsibility is essential to all areas of a business. CSR means transparency from management, fair wages for employees, healthy working conditions for factory workers halfway around the world and ensuring that products are safe not only for consumers but also for the environment.
The importance of CSR in today’s marketplace cannot be overestimated. Today, consumers and society itself hold businesses to a higher standard than ever before. It is time for corporations to embrace this change and take full advantage of the opportunity to do good while doing good business.