by Princewill Ekwujuru
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) adoption or non-adoption is increasingly becoming a critical determining factor of corporate performance due to growing awareness and interest among consumers and stakeholders.
According to experts who spoke to C&M, adoption of CSR practices has become imperative as consumers and stakeholders now care more about CSR ever than before, and are demanding changes in the way companies do business.
The experts also stressed the need for companies to be more transparent with their dealings, play a more active role in addressing social, cultural, and environmental issues that will endear them to their immediate community.
Citing the ISO 26000 certification, introduced by the Industrial Standard Organisation (ISO) to provide a minimum set of social guidelines that socially conscious companies should meet, they noted that apprehension over negative corporate performance has prompted most big companies and small and medium businesses (SMBs) to begin to key into CSR initiatives.
Vanguard Companies and Markets (C&M) findings reveal that most companies are rethinking their CSR attitude and strategy to accommodate the interest of the Millenials which are fast becoming the dominant segment of a growing population of consumers.
C&M also noted that consumers have become particularly tech-savvy, and they do not think twice about researching for a company and looking into its ethical record and labour practices.
Consumers feel it is their duty to do their part in making the world a better place, and this burgeoning generation does not want to be associated with or support companies that do not take responsibility for the world and the people in it.
Companies with CSR models
The Coca-Cola Company’s CSR program 5×20 has the goal of employing five million women in developing countries by 2020 in both bottling and distribution roles.
This goal will not only benefit the women in the communities surrounding Coca-Cola manufacturing plants but could also benefit the communities as a whole, as the company aims to provide better access to health care and improved education to their employees.
The corporate social responsibility model implemented by VISA provides financial opportunities for people in developing areas of the world.
By partnering with local governments and nonprofit organizations, people who previously did not have access to the benefits of banking and financial services now do.
The Gates Foundation found that this type of service helps low income and poor people manage their finances in trying times, build assets, and increase connectivity worldwide.
Responsibility Officer at Alcoline Enterprises, Igbanke Obinze said: “As a consumer, stakeholder, or employee, all your decisions and emotions are driven by your personal beliefs.
It should not be surprising that many people care a lot about things like the environment, their community, and other people. That’s why more businesses are launching initiatives to be more socially responsible.”
Obinze said the benefits of CSR are limitless when adopted. “Consumers will definitely assess a company’s image when deciding whether to buy from it. For example, staff members volunteering an hour a week at a charity shows that the brand is committed to helping others. As a result, the company will appear much more favourable to consumers”, he said. He noted, however “that the organization will witness increased brand awareness and recognition if committed to ethical practices, the news will spread. More people will, therefore, hear about your brand, which creates increased brand awareness.
“By embracing CSR a company stands out from competitors. The company establishes itself as committed to going one step further by considering social and environmental factors.”
He pointed out that a company that adopts sustainable CSR systems will witness increased customer engagement, and that such company should shout it from the rooftops. Post it on its social media channels and create a story out of their efforts.”
Speaking further, he said, “the company should show its efforts to local media outlets in the hope they’ll give it some coverage. Customers will follow this and engage with their brand and operations.”
“Similar to customer engagement, the organization needs to ensure their employees know its CSR strategies because it has been proven that employees enjoy working more for a company that has a good public image than one that doesn’t. “There is also a range of benefits for your employees when you embrace CSR. Your workplace will be a more positive and productive place to work, and by promoting things like volunteering, you encourage personal and professional growth.”
Reacting, Managing Director, CSR-in–Action, Mrs. Bekeme Masade-Olowora said: “It’s truly a growing phenomenon as people are beginning to take more cognizance of the impacts of CSR – whether positive or negative–of companies, and are making decisions based on those perceptions.”
“Therefore, I would say that resistance from local consumers and communities do threaten the growth of companies and subsequently the economy, especially in the extractive and energy sectors such as oil and gas and mining, as a result of dissatisfaction which can lead to unrest.”
“For instance, over the past decade, Nigeria has witnessed drastic reduction in crude oil outputs, not primarily because of oil price volatility in the international market, but due to resistance from host communities in the Niger Delta.”
Such resistance has led to many deaths, economic losses in billions of dollars due to crude oil theft and destruction of infrastructure, delays in project completion and loss of investment, and has continued to threaten the activities of oil and gas companies not for the lack of a legal license to operate, but for the lack of a social license to operate; which refers to a community’s perception of the acceptability of a company and its local operations.”
“The license, in this case, is a psychological agreement and broadly depends on the ability of host communities to trust companies enough to think that they are considering the community’s own wellbeing.”
Masade-Olowora on the adoption of CSR by small and media businesses said: “A handful of small and medium-sized enterprises incorporate Nigeria have made the smart decision to embed social responsibility as part of their business plans and strategies, and in some cases are reporting on their impacts publicly. This is aimed at making the public aware of their positive impacts.”
Corroborating, Reputation Manager at GeoFrost Academy, Delta, a reputation management company, Ibru Oghenekaro, said, “employee engagement is also now tied to a company’s CSR reputation.”
“A recent Deloitte survey found that 70 percent of millennial consumers’ acknowledged that a company’s commitment to social responsibility influenced their choice of workplace or purchases.
“With millennial consumers soon to be the largest generational segment of the workforce, companies looking to hire these workers will need to embrace CSR in order to attract and retain talent. Millennials do not just want to consume products and services made by companies that have a CSR presence; they want to take part in making these social and environmental changes also.”
On his part, Meribe Nkwocha, an official of Nibble Rescuers, a Caregiver organization said: “Companies must be transparent in their dealings, play an important and more active role in addressing social, cultural, and environmental issues that will endear them to their immediate operating community and make customers believe in their organizations.