Business Social Responsibility and Marketing: a marriage that may lead to ambiguities

Is it enough for a company to provide a Corporate Social Responsibility policy in order to be defined as sustainable?

Which role has Marketing in the conception of a sustainable business?

How can communication strategy affect the reception by the public of any information regarding a company’s sustainability?

These are all questions that any person in business as well as any client or customer should ask in order to become more aware about what’s going on in the Marketing area when it comes to CSR.

With regard to any kind of non-financial report on the matter of CSR companies do have a degree of flexibility when it comes to publicly declare their policy, actions and results.

Moreover, as per the laws currently in force on this matter, a limited number of companies are asked to publish a non-financial report, which leaves a great amount of activities completely out of the radar.

As the law leaves room for ambiguity, the relationship between company choices about CSR policies and Marketing procedures and processes can lead (willingly or not) to unclear practices.

On one hand, almost all Marketing functions are dealing with activities related to CSR.

CSR policies affect not only the value chain but also the financial areas, Human Resources, Research and Development, Communication, insurance-related subjects, external and internal relations etc.

Among the areas of interest of Marketing management in a company we can mention:

– Planning

– Internal and External Communication

– Product Design and Development

– Distribution (Retail, e-commerce, Merchandising, etc.)

– Budgeting

– Risk Evaluation

– Packaging, Labelling, Branding

– Customer Relations and Support

– Market Information, Studies, Trends.

This means that Marketing functions are closely linked to any subject related to CSR and a strict collaboration among departments is vital.

On the other hand, CSR policies are linked to the identity of a brand and, therefore, to its image.

This may lead to a misuse of communication in terms of CSR and consequently to misleading actions that could end up in green- and/or social-washing.

Here some examples of the situations that may occur in terms of CSR communication:

– Having a sustainable DNA and an efficient communication method, which leads to a successful communication in terms of CSR;

– Having a sustainable DNA but some gaps in the content or style of communication, which is partially affecting the public image of the brand or company;

– Having a partially sustainable DNA or being in a phase of first approach toward sustainability, therefore trying to change the communication style and content with more or less success;

– Trying to demonstrate trough communication the adoption of sustainable practices even if not true, which leads to greenwashing practices (companies may not be aware of the consequences of their actions on this subject);

– Not being interested in sustainable-related matters and therefore not engaging in communication on the subject.

These examples show the difference between using CSR as a method for a sustainable change and for improvement (included the Marketing process), and using CSR and the non-financial report as a mere communication instrument.

On this subject it is important to know that we now live in an era in which having access to information has become extremely easy.

Most of the population around the world can get access to internet and verify any information, even with regard to a company’s activity.

Moreover, journalistic investigations and social networks may uncover unpleasant situations that companies were trying to hide in order to protect their image.

Therefore, using CSR as a mere communication tool is not wise, as it can lead to face irreversible consequences on the image of a company or a brand.

For more information on this subject please feel free to contact me at the email address:

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