A survey of 250 global business leaders finds that 2/3s of them are focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to generate new revenue streams. The report by the IBM Institute for Business Value finds:
Driving these beliefs is the rising influence of customers who, thanks to their ability to research and share information on the Internet, have become highly sensitized to a broad range of issues -- everything from concerns about climate change, to product safety issues, to labor practices, to corporate financial accountability, to questions about whether corporations are returning enough of their profits to the community... "The more information these stakeholders get, the more they want to know. This increased visibility of corporate behavior is driving consumers' decisions on what to buy and who to buy from, who to work for, who to partner with, where to invest," said George Pohle, VP and Global Leader of IBM's Business Strategy Consulting Practice.
The focus of revenue streams as a guiding principle for so many CSR programs among these businesses is reinforced by the finding that only 16 percent of survey respondents engage and collaborate with their customers on CSR activities. However, 48 percent report they are working with NGOs or local governments for business purposes.
One of the recommendations in the report is entitled The New Customer Conversation; The only way to decide what’s really relevant is to engage customers. Capture their questions. Listen to their ideas. Make it easy for them to find the answers to their questions online, on labels, and from sales and service employees. Analyze underlying themes so you can make your actions and information increasingly relevant.
In other words, be a marketer, not a seller, of socially responsible ideas and practices. And if you are on the nonprofit side of the CSR model, I suggest you understand and engage with your audiences in ways that make sense to your potential business partners.
Then there are upstream approaches to CSR that move us closer to real social change.