Corporate Social Responsibility: Past, Present and Future

Maggie Headshot
Maggie Glanton, Treasurer
by Maggie Glanton

“Community is not a noun, it is a verb.” – Jock Lauterer

Community relations has a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to grow up in a great community, surrounded by family and friends, it constantly changing as it grew into the place that I now call “home.”

As I approach the senior year of my undergraduate career, I plan to pursue a role that will allow me to connect with communities and to leave a lasting impact for future generations. Corporate Social Responsibility is where I intend to use my skills as a public relations practitioner. I want to work for an organization that is both dedicated to its community and to supporting a cause for which it is most passionate.

As public relations continue to evolve in the 21st century, so does the area of corporate social responsibility. As I intend to enter this arena, here is what I am predicting for the future of community relations…

The evolution of CSR and Community Relations

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) evolved as a response to stakeholders’ need for transparency in regards to the actions of corporations. Many organizations responded by initiating programs within their human resources departments to support the charitable actions of their employees. Companies encouraged employees to volunteer their time, and the company would use these actions as a positive public relations plug. In return, stakeholders were happy to see the beginnings of increased transparency in regards to community involvement.

While the initial push for CSR and greater community involvement was geared towards satisfying stakeholders, CSR grew into a whole new world of community involvement for organizations. Corporate philanthropy increased, as organizations aligned themselves with causes by writing big checks to an array of nonprofits and other philanthropic opportunities.

However, while this benefitted both the corporation writing the checks and the organizations receiving the donations, no lasting relationship was established between the two. As CSR evolves in the future, the relationship between the corporation and the benefitting organization or social cause will be the top priority within community relations.

Benefitting Communities and Creating Lasting Relationships

Rather than continuing the tradition of donating money to many different causes, corporations will begin to align with only a few efforts in order to create lasting relationships. These alliances will be strategic and they will reinforce their core values. In order for a corporation’s time, resources and money to further the goals of the philanthropy, it is necessary to narrow the scope of their efforts.

While cause marketing has gained popularity in the past decade, the future of CSR will move beyond single marketing campaigns. Organizations will establish long-standing relationships with a single cause and work with many different organizations to ensure they achieve goals. Marketing efforts will no longer be restrained by the time limits of a campaign. Organizations will continue to impact communities year-round. Not only will these relationships further their goals of the corporation; it will ensure that they have an impact on their community.

Joe Mechlinski, CEO of the Baltimore-based consulting firm entreQuest sees “giving back to the community” as “an essential key to successful business because it not only lifts morale and builds capability among the team, but it also clear’s people’s minds allowing them to make better decisions.”

Companies are an important part of the communities in which they reside. They provide jobs, as well as sustainability for communities to grow and flourish. This idea is also supported by future marketing demographics.

New-Age Consumers

If you haven’t noticed, Millennials are quickly taking over the world. They are the future consumers, employees and government officials and in order for businesses to succeed, they must understand how to market to them. This in part will be achieved through CSR and community relation efforts.

Recent surveys indicate that Millennials are highly educated and socially liberal. They strive to change the world, one tweet at a time. It is important for marketers to acknowledge this demographic and their potential market share. In order to connect with this aging demographic, corporations need to establish healthy relationships with their communities, as well as a social cause.

But don’t just take my word for it because the numbers don’t lie…

  • 7 in 10 young adults consider themselves social activists
  • 3 in 4 believe that corporations should create economic value for society by addressing needs
  • 87% of consumers consider CSR when deciding what to buy or where to shop
  • 93% of consumers are more loyal to a company that connects with causes that are important to them
  • 91% of consumers are likely to switch brands based on their CSR efforts

Millennials want to buy products they can feel good about purchasing. More importantly, they want to work for companies they can feel good about. The world is no longer divided between a professional world and a personal one. Employees do not enter an office building and leave their personalities or their social missions behind, no matter how hard they try. They want to work for a company that will support their ideals, and they want to be proud of their companies for all endeavors.

Moving Beyond “Writing a Check”

The future of community relations – and more specifically CSR – is bright. Corporations are beginning to realize the impact they have on their communities, and they are eager to give back. While monetary donations are always beneficial, establishing a long-term relationship with a social mission that aligns with the company’s values will produce more valuable results. This is the future of Corporate Social Responsibility, and I intend to make my mark on the many communities that will be a part of my life.

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