CSR will drive communications in 2021 and beyond

We know that the whole world has changed. This is a unique time in history for us all; we are united in a global, shared experience. Within this setting what has become apparent, is that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is playing a crucial role for businesses and brands, during these uncontrollable times. The global pandemic is forcing all types of organisations to do better and since last year, more emphasis is being put on a company’s CSR initiatives, which are being built not only into the communications strategy, but also the business strategy, becoming integral to the brand, and whether it survives. The way all companies have been responding to this crisis has become a defining moment that will be remembered for decades. The importance of honesty, dedication, and community outreach has helped companies keep their brand and reputation authentic during this time.

Companies are adapting to the pandemic in creative ways that will further their brand in the long run while caring for people in the current climate. One of the best guides to understanding the new consumer expectations of brands in the wake of COVID-19 has been the Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic. It has strong insights into how consumers want brands to step up and protect their employees, work with governments and direct their enormous resources to help solve problems during this crisis.

Another, global report, The Strength of Purpose commissioned by the Zeno Group, surveyed more than 8,000 individuals across eight markets (US, Canada, UK, France, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia), having them rate more than 75 brands on their perceived strength of Purpose. It reveals businesses benefit when they have purposeful brands, as consumers are four to six times more likely to buy from, trust, champion, and defend companies with a strong Purpose. This is another tick for CSR, validating it’s a must for long-term business and communications strategies.

Consumers across generations and geographies recognised the strength and importance of Purpose, and indicated they would hold brands accountable.

These generations expressed important considerations for the role of companies in society, indicating that brands need to prioritise Purpose over profit; only when a brand has a positive impact is it allowed to make a profit.

It also showed that consumers are not afraid of boycotting, as the majority of consumers (76%) had taken action in response to a brand doing something they disagreed with, including no longer buying from the brand, switching to a competitor, or discouraging others from buying from or supporting that brand.

Another interesting finding is that more than three-quarters (77%) of consumers believe a company’s leader should embody their brand Purpose and mission in their personal life.

Along with consumers, the interest from investors in sustainable investments and policies is rising. Whether it’s in equities, government bonds, exchange-traded funds or hedge funds, investors around the world are demanding socially and environmentally conscious options. Strong Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESGs) refer to the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. They help to better determine the future financial performance of accompany and its ability to weather change effectively. Given where the world is headed, companies that have ESG issues better managed or embedded will have attractive growth prospects in the coming years.

This is the time for all types of business to have CSR as the lifeblood for their investors, employees and customers.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sangeeta Waldron
Sangeeta Waldron is an award-winning public relation professional and founder of Serendipity PR & Media. Her latest book, 'Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Public Relations' is out now in India, published by Jaico Publishing. She is also a guest lecturer and international speaker.

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