In previous articles, we have discussed the pitfalls of companies not managing their CSR strategies appropriately resulting in poor press coverage as well as outrage among activists and degraded public opinion. In this article, we concentrate on the positive aspect of how companies have managed their CSR strategies well and are reaping the benefits of doing so. The first company that comes to mind as a beacon of good corporate governance is the Indian IT industry bellwether, Infosys. Indeed, Infosys is one of the companies that has set benchmarks for other companies not only in India but all over the world in the way corporate governance and social responsibility are handled and projected to the outside world. The point here is that companies not only need to walk the talk for CSR but also broadcast their achievements to the world at large.
Another company that has done an exceptional job of portraying itself as a good corporate citizen is the TATA group in India and The Body Shop (formerly owned by Anita Roddick) company in the United States.
While these two companies are at different ends of the spectrum as far as their product lines and lines of business are concerned, the public perceives these companies favourably mainly due to the visionary leaders that have led these companies as well as the reputation that has been established through decades of doing the right thing. Taken together with Infosys and companies like Sony Ericsson, these corporations reap the benefits of being good corporate citizens in terms of increased revenues and top of the mind brand recall by dint of being model corporate citizens.
The key take away from this discussion is that companies do gain tangible and intangible benefits by practising CSR and by projecting an image of good governance and social responsibility to the external world. Of course, we have seen how companies resort to Green Washing and spin to project something which does not exist fully or partially. The point about these examples is that these companies not only pursue socially and environmentally responsible strategies but also make it a point to be on cordial terms with all the stakeholders (the suppliers, governmental agencies, employees, consumers and society at large) which translates into measurable and immeasurable benefits to these companies.
Finally, being a good corporate citizen brings its own benefits to the companies. For instance, it is common to find leaders from these companies sitting on various boards and advisory committees which speak volumes about the high esteem in which they are held. This translates into instant recognition and a halo effect which for all practical purposes is like the adulation that rock stars and sports personalities receive from the people. The point here is that good corporate behavior is rewarded at some point or the other and hence, companies must seek to do well and do the right thing always. While not preaching, some of these companies also help other companies in actualizing their visions for society and by being transformational change agents as well as catalysts for CSR.
In conclusion, CSR as a business imperative must not be accepted grudgingly or half heartedly. Instead, it must be practiced with full vigor and straight from the heart passion and this certainly helps the companies in the long run. After all, business is not all about the next quarter only.