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Reputation. Reputation. Reputation. Your key differentiator: Corporate Social Responsibility

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Stand out by being a CSR thought leader

“In the business world, the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” — Warren Buffett

reputation

A study by Adam Friedman Associates continues to confirm the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR’s becoming a harder asset.

Executives from Fortune 1000 organizations said that the C-suite and/or board of directors involve themselves directly in “decision-making and measurement processes with regards to the company’s CSR programs.” There’s lots of talk about being different but when it comes to CSR and “getting it”, decision-makers at the forefront of thought leadership understand that CSR is a key differentiator.

Be different. Be better.

Who are you? What do you stand for? Where are you going?

Competition is fierce. Tools that define who you are and what you stand for as an organization show a company to be forward-thinking with a strategy that reaches beyond the latest quarter and far into the future.

The C-suite’s talking about CSR. Executives are more and more conscious of how CSR contributes to business.

CSR: Growing. Growing. Grown.

Results of the study show:

[T]here has been an expansion in scope and focus of CSR strategies and resource allocation. Many CSR initiatives were created in response to environmental issues and pressures, but companies are now expanding their focus to social, health, diversity, labor and safety issues. While many companies still focus much of their time and resources on environmental issues, CSR has grown to include almost any issue or concern that affects the operations and reputation of the company.

So, CSR is growing its influence.

More measurement. More third parties.

Measurement’s still not universal. But there are more third parties involved and more supplier audits. Of course, reception of programs by consumers and media are important and impact evaluation.

Transparency and volume of information have made consumer opinions more important than ever.

CSR and profitability are clearly linked for many corporations. Today’s thought leaders no longer see CSR “as a ‘soft’ discipline within the corporate structure”.

CSR directly affects profitability.

Integrate. Maximize. Get results.

Still think social media is a digital smoke screen?

The study found:

Social media has become an important tool companies use to communicate to their publics about their CSR efforts in addition to traditional media. This allows companies to communicate their CSR activities and progress in a manner that is fast, easily accessible and provides them with vital feedback from their publics.

Companies are using social media to supply their stakeholders with information and content. They are building online communities.

Companies are using social media to find out what their stakeholders care about. They’re using incoming messages to help craft future social media strategies.

Thinking strategically, companies have embedded CSR communications deep into their overall communication strategies. Employees are using social media to measure the effectiveness of CSR.

Everything that makes CSR disappear, makes CSR stronger:

In integration, find strength

Some executives believe:

[T]he CSR function may disappear altogether as corporations begin to absorb CSR into all aspects of their business and make it a part of every employee’s responsibilities. As companies begin to assess and measure the effects their CSR programs have on the business’s reputation, CSR may increase in both scope and importance. Based on the interviews conducted, some CSR practitioners said they believe CSR should not be its own function or department but rather an integrated part of the business … Senior executives should pay more attention to the views of their external stakeholders when developing CSR strategies because their sentiments will affect the company’s reputation and/or its position among competitors.

The study found businesses need to look at CSR as a growing function. CSR strategies should be integrated into all areas of business.

In a world where the media is full of stories of corruption, best practices will continue to resonate.

Loudly.

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Find the study by request.

Find more on reputation and CSR/sustainability here:

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Social. Mobile. The future.

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This post continues from Social media is enterprise media.

The trend is the “send”

You often hear the expression “the trend is your friend” from portfolio managers. Might this be true when it comes to social media? Well, ask the Obama campaign.

By the end of this year:

  • Nearly 82 million U.S. mobile users will use a social networking site on their phone at least monthly, or more than a quarter of the total U.S. population
  • The vast majority of these users (95.5 per cent) will be checking social sites on a smartphone

and,

  • Smartphone users are about twice as likely as overall mobile phone users to do so this year

By 2014, eMarketer estimates:

  • Nearly half of the total U.S. mobile population will be mobile social networkers

Mary Meeker just gave a presentation saying there will be:

  • 1 billion smartphone users but 5 billion mobile phone users by the end of 2012

This means 1/5 of the phones in the world will be social-enabled phones.

The signpost at the road ahead is social-enabled and mobile.

Inherit the future:

It’s the millenials, dude …

  • 43 per cent of people aged 20-29 spend more than 10 hours a week on social media sites

These kids are the future. While you might not want to put your social media strategy in the hands of a 22-year-old, you do want to pay attention to where these future consumers are going to live. And more and more, they’re living and playing digitally.

But there’s a social boom amongst the boomers, too

While boomers weren’t first-in, they’re also embracing the social sphere:

  • Social networking use was only 20 per cent in 2010 but is now 51 per cent amongst those 50-64
  • So, amongst the 50-64 set social has more than doubled

As Boomers and businesses become increasingly social, the opportunities for businesses providing social services will also increase. More and more businesses will want to incorporate social strategy in their marketing, communications and CRM initiatives. Businesses are forging development programs in an integrated strategy to reach and engage audiences faster and more cheaply.

Those who built it saw them come

Some companies saw the opportunity in the social world we now live in: a rapidly growing social cybersphere.

Forbes says:

  • 85 per cent of all businesses that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy reported an increase in their market exposure

Any resource that can deliver an increase in market exposure for a brand is a resource business can’t afford to ignore. Remember e-commerce?

Despite the readjustment of the tech bubble, leaders in e-commerce like Amazon have gone on to become enormously successful. Amazon has outpaced both the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones Industrials by over 12,000 per cent respectively since 1997 in stock appreciation (at time of writing). While we have to pay attention to valuations when they get stretched, we also have to understand that leaders will emerge, and a reluctance to embrace new social resources may leave companies stranded like a non-functional rover on Mars.

Keep it about sales, salespeople

At the end of the day, everyone, everyone is a sales person. We all project who we are onto the world. In the C-Suite, everyone has to be a salesperson. It’s inevitable. As someone develops professionally reaching into the higher levels of management, sales skills are an absolute. It doesn’t matter if this is in the private, government or non-profit sectors. Developing something out of nothing’s not a bad thing.

(More on sales to come.)

While some managers are afraid of the “social” in social media, others are embracing it. The enterprise advantage is not about wasting productivity, it’s about enabling it.

Coming soon:

SocRev: The social revolution and its potential to revolutionize the corporation

Would you have said no to Galileo?

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Source: eMarketer

Written by johnrondina

November 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Customers continue to fuel business case for sustainability and leaders are saying they get it

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Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most sustainable:

Helping businesses compete responsibly

Managements get it

Half do, according to a recent study:

MIT found 53 per cent of managements surveyed said sustainability initiatives have helped their companies profit.

With the wind of change at their backs, leaders changed their business model.

Policy and politcal pressure

The MIT study found that legislative or political pressure also plays a big role: 34 per cent of respondents citing the law or policy initiatives as affecting their ideas about sustainability.

People want sustainability built into an organization’s thinking.  They like the idea of sustainable products.

Two of the top three reasons leaders cite as being reasons for changing their business is the value proposition that is sustainability.

The art of listening

The automotive industry and the energy and utilities sector, often criticized for not being green enough,  finished first and second in making a business case for sustainability. Both industries were over 40 per cent.

Lagging

But technology and communications and the financial services sector scored low at 27 and 21 per cent respectively. These sectors have potential. If they’re behind, there’s opportunity for smart businesses in tech, communications and financial services to take the lead where competitors are lagging.

Publics are hard to ignore

Even companies like Apple, challenged regarding their supply chain, have invested in sustainability. The creation of their solar farm in Maiden, NC, (under pressure from environmental critics?) gives the company a positive. But Apple was recently hit with another bomb regarding its supply chain. Because of the company’s enormous cash horde, critics are unsympathetic, feeling Apple could do more.

Studies show the advantage of brands differentiating themselves through sustainable thinking.

If consumers and legislators are demanding more sustainability planning from companies, and businesses that haven’t been viewed as green traditionally are committing themselves to sustainability, can other companies afford to miss out on the potential value add?

The edge in keeping consumers happy

It seems like the pressure from consumers is something thoughtful managements have foremost in their minds.

As public relations and marketing find themselves increasingly challenged by astronomical growth in channels and tools, the obvious answer points to embracing sustainability and CSR as a strategy: Managements themselves say sustainability adds value.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most sustainable.

Should companies invest in sustainability?

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Good times. Bad times.

Corporate Social Responsibility? Sustainability?

Are these ideas and a strategy better left for the good times? Post-financial crisis can a business really afford to “green” itself or think about scarce resources?

Saving on energy costs hits the bottom line. But some sustainability projects add costs. Are they worth it?

Yes. They are.

In the post-financial crisis environment, long-term thinking is as appropriate as ever. Just how are companies who have made an authentic commitment to sustainability doing?

Long-term thinking

In 16 of 18 industries studied, A.T. Kearney found:

Companies recognized as sustainability-focused outperformed their industry peers over both a three and six-month period, and were all protected from value erosion.

Let’s talk results:

  • Over three months, the 99 companies studied outperformed by 10 per cent
  • Over six months, by 15 per cent

Such outperformance in difficult times is remarkable.

Companies were part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index or the Goldman Sachs Sustain List.

Risk management and sustainability: A partnership

The study suggests that:

Prudent risk management practices often evolve from the same approaches used to develop and execute long-term strategies to avoid disruptive events from occurring due to weak links in the supply chain …

So … Sustainability planning may have a bigger impact on long-term business performance than many think.

Sustain outperformance in bad times

In some sectors of the economy, companies practicing “true” sustainability showed remarkable outperformance:

  • Financial services by 25 per cent
  • Media by 33 per cent
  • Automobiles and parts by 33 per cent

True strategic efforts toward sustainability have shown their worth even during trying times like the financial crisis. While some companies will take a “lip service” approach with purely tactical short-term endeavours geared toward winning awards, the strategic approach toward sustainability will produce concrete dividends even in challenging times.

More importantly, it was the worst of times

It’s not about short-term reputational gains. It’s about long-term gains and avoiding the disasters that short-term thinking so often lead to.

Strategic policies like the United Nations Global Impact, where companies follow:

… universally accepted principles in human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption … embedded into daily business practices and … applied to supplier codes of conduct, company policies, and compliance procedures for confidential reporting and auditing, among other areas …

… have an effect on the bottom line.

In light of the growing fallout over Wal-Mart’s activities in Mexico, the evaluation of cost and commitment regarding sustainability over the long-term looks highly positive, especially since it outperforms against the average even during the worst of times.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the damage to reputation and shareholder value the Wal-Mart allegations will lead to if they’re found to be true.

But reputational damage happens the moment allegations are made, the moment the media picks up the story. Shareholders sell fast. Headlines have immediate impact.

A brand branded with a headline related to bribery, or even supply chain issues, lasts long in the memory.

The best crisis management continues to be avoiding the crisis in the first place. A focus on short-term solutions leads to long-term crises.

Study: Green Winners

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