Should Companies Market their CSR?

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-31-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

A debate rages in the CSR community: should companies use their ‘good’ practices and programs in their marketing?


Peter Knight, Director at Context Group, says NO!  You can read his article “Letter from America: Let’s Call a Sale a Sale” in the October Ethical Corporation magazine.  In it, Knight brings Toms Shoes and others to task for conflating marketing and selling to consumers with straight philanthropic activities. 


Tara Greco, Senior Vice President at APCO Worldwide, couldn’t disagree more.  She contributed a rebuttal to Knight’s article on the APCO Worldwide blog SharedPurpose entitled “Marketing Your Company’s Commitment to Shared Value.”  She notes:


“Companies like Tom’s Shoes recognize that a quality product matters most, and then you have to differentiate yourself from your competitors. These days, all stakeholders—consumers, employees, regulators, investors—expect more from companies. They want to know what your company is doing beyond turning a profit and they want to know why you’re investing in those things.”


I would add the following in support of Greco’s argument: consumers are hungry for more, not less, information on corporate responsibility.  According to Cone, Inc., 90% of Americans want companies to tell them how they support causes.  I don’t think that means they want more press releases and CSR reports.  Consumers, as Greco points out, are less trusting of traditional marketing tactics and now look more holistically at how a company talks about itself.  A 360 degree view of a company’s cause efforts has to include a mix of corporate communications and marketing, but more importantly now, the voice of the consumer.  Through social media and viral channels, consumers keep the pulse of what they deem to be authentic and meaningful cause programs.  If they smell a rat, they are the first to tell you so on your company’s Facebook page, their blog and any other place they have a voice online. 


Just think about the backlash that resulted from the KFC and Komen “Buckets for the Cure” cause partnership.


It’s not a question of whether consumers are confused when cause is incorporated into marketing.  Rather, it’s a question of whether they believe that cause is authentically and sincerely represented in marketing claims.  As with all elements of CSR, honesty and transparency are the best policies.


CSR: The Business Case

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-28-2011 12:42 PM, EDT - last edited on ‎01-11-2013 5:00 PM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

Our friends at YourCause put together this engaging infographic on making the business case for CSR. YourCause is a provider of global employee engagement solutions.  You can learn more about YourCause’s CSRConnect platform and get additional CSRinsights here


Why Slacktivism Is Underrated

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-26-2011 9:36 AM, EDT

Online cause marketing takes many forms, but a popular campaign format includes asking consumers to take a small digital action that earns a reward from the corporate brand or combines with lots of other small actions to create social impact that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Consumers have been asked to vote for their favorite cause to receive a grant from Chase (Chase Community Giving) or Target (Bullseye Gives), update their Twitter status with a special hashtag (USA TODAY’s #AmericaWants campaign), and tell their Facebook friends where they ‘like’ to put their purse in support of breast cancer awareness (‘I Like It’ Facebook campaign).  The prevailing wisdom is that these small actions will attract consumers who don’t normally support causes – the so-called ‘slacktivists’ among us who only give back if it is easy.


New research from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide turns that ‘wisdom’ on its head.


Earlier this week, Katya Andresen, Network for Good’s Chief Strategy Officer, posted a write-up of The Dynamics of Cause Engagement study on Mashable.  I invite you to read the full post, but have included some highlights from the research below.  What you learn will likely change the way you approach online cause marketing and how you engage with your conscious consumers.


In the 2010 national survey, people who frequently engaged in promotional social activity were:

  • As likely as non-social media promoters to donate
  • Twice as likely to volunteer their time
  • Twice as likely to take part in events like charity walks
  • More than twice as likely to buy products or services from companies that supported the cause
  • Three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of their cause
  • More than four times as likely to encourage others to sign a petition or contact political representatives

Linking Brand Identity to Cause Programs

by Kate_NFG ‎10-24-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

Stacie Mann, Network for Good’s VP of Partnerships, recently attended the Mashable Social Good Summit and reports back with a compelling cause initiative courtesy of Skype.


Launched 6 months ago, Skype in the Classroom provides a rich example of a company (Skype) extending its core brand identity (connectivity) with a relevant cause (education) to create a meaningful and relevant initiative that resonates at a grassroots level, much like Skype’s origins.



From the website:

Skype in the classroom is a free global community that invites teachers to collaborate on classroom projects where they might use Skype, and share skills and inspiration around specific teaching needs.  Uses include: cultural exchange, language learning and general discovery.


To date, almost 18,000 teachers have established more than 1,000 projects across the globe.  From Australia to America to Africa, 60 languages are represented in more than 170 countries.  The top U.S. cities using Skype in the Classroom include: New York, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angles, San Francisco, Austin, Washington, Dallas and Omaha.


Teacher Testimonial

Kara from Missouri, speaks about finding teachers to connect with on Skype in the classroom from Skype in the classroom on Vimeo.


The takaway for other companies thinking about social initiatives is to consider how you can leverage core assets in new ways to drive impact.  If you can relate your cause initiatives to your core business, those initiatives will resonate with your key audiences (customers, employees, community), be easier to ‘sell’ to stakeholders and decision makers and ultimately be more sustainable.

Here’s a little Friday fun for you: a talk by Kevin Bacon on his work with Network for Good on Six Degrees.   Kevin spoke last week at TEDx Midwest, sharing his story about ‘the power of one’ and how he turned a college drinking game (at his expense) into a force for social good through

As he says, anyone can be a ‘celebrity’ for their cause - with the right message, connections and devotion.  I bet there are many ‘celebrities’ among your employees and customers.  How can your company unleash their generosity and reinforce their passion for the community? 


View more videos at:

It's that time of year, again.  The holidays are fast approaching and, at Network for Good, that means that online giving is about to go into turbo drive.  It happens every year.  Generosity ramps up to a fever pitch, culminating in the biggest day of giving on December 31st.


We know that your customers and employees are also generous procrastinators at the end of the year: they want to join your holiday cause campaign, but need a little encouragement from you.  This new Holiday 'Good' Guide from Network for Good will show you how to unleash their generosity this holiday season.

As a leading online giving platform, Network for Good wants to share our data about how donors turn to the Internet for year-end giving and give you a few tips. We invite you to read our insights and recommendations based on donations through Network for Good's giving system in December for the last eight years (2003 through 2010).

Let us help you design the perfect holiday giving campaign.
Contact us to get started.

There are two  important factors that lead to cause marketing success:

  • The cause must be a good match for the company, brand and/or target audience
  • There must be support across the entire company for the cause

That is a finding from the 2011 Corporate Social Impact Marketing Survey, a joint study by Allison & Partners and the Cause Marketing Forum.  The survey includes insights from executives at 35 top national brands (including Best Western, ConAgra Foods, Walgreens, and the Walt Disney Company) into their corporate philanthropy, community relations or cause marketing programs. 


Scott Pansky, partner and co-founder of Allison & Partners, recently expanded on the findings from the survey in AdAge.  According to Pansky,


  • The cause must be a good match for the company, brand and target audience; therefore, more importance should be placed on employee and consumer feedback.
  • Internal alignment on the business case must be achieved before the campaign is launched -- this could happen by engaging senior leadership and employees earlier in the process through research.
  • Unsuccessful campaigns are hung up on low sales results while successful campaigns use additional metrics to determine their achievements. Companies must be innovative when developing success metrics.


In sum, cause marketing is at its best when the initiative fits within a larger CSR strategy (that encompasses consumers, employees and other stakeholders) and long-term cause partnership.


You can read the full  2011 Corporate Social Impact Marketing Survey here.

CSR Impacts the Bottom Line

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-14-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

The following is a guest post from Network for Good’s partner YourCause, a provider of global employee engagement solutions.  You can learn more about YourCause’s CSRConnect platform and get additional CSRinsights here


It’s in the facts.  Research proves a measureable payoff exists of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to companies as well as their stakeholders.  So, we turned on our proverbial flashlight to aggregate quantifiable data that so easily gets lost in reports, stacks of research and that endless labyrinth we call - the mind. 


We wrote this edition for two very simple reasons: 

1) To provide you with a high-level business case, within one page, that clearly lays out the proven benefits of a well-executed CSR program

2) To equip our readers with a source they can pass to others who may find such information meaningful and influential within their own decision making process    


Employees: Are Willing to Work Longer and Harder for a Company They Believe In

YourCause1.jpgCSR can be a key driver in employee engagement within a company. Volunteer hours and giving amounts may feel like a fuzzy, do-good metric but the reality is these programs can deliver quantifiable benefits valued for business returns (if well-managed).  Effective employee engagement programs have shown to reflect improvements in employee retention, business performance and attracting talent. Making sure employees are well-aware and engaged with the company’s program(s) brings a competitive advantage if they are treated with more than a nice-to-have attitude.


What sort of impact can retention play on the bottom line?  Consider the fact that the cost of replacing a mid-level employee is estimated to be roughly 150% the value of their entire compensation package, when factoring in time, recruitment, training, etc.  For high-level employees, the cost can reach upwards of 750%.  No matter the level of the employee, and despite the actual cost impact to the company, the indisputable facts remain constant:  a well-executed CSR program can improve retention, therefore, positively impact the bottom line of the company.  


Consumers: Expect and Prefer CSR Companies

YourCause2.jpgConsumers today, with the assistance of social media, the internet, mobile devices, etc., are more vocal about their expectations around a company’s commitment to CSR and how they engage them in the process. Promoting cause awareness and educating consumers of the company’s related CSR programs pays off, primarily with an increase in brand reputation, purchasing behaviors and sales through word-of-mouth.  In fact, trends start to look pretty grim when their perceptions don’t meet their expectations – feeling they are not engaged enough and not clearly communicated to.


Society: The Influence of Expectations and Trends

YourCause3.jpgThe "Millennials," also known as the "Y Generation," grew up recycling, eating organic foods, learning new technology on a whim, and constantly being attached to their social networks.  They understand that community service was a prerequisite to getting into a good school, and landing their first job.  Now that they entered the workplace, they place high importance on giving back to the community. This tech-savvy generation is civic minded and 78 million strong, leading the trends for the future.



Helpful Resources and References

Northup, Jan. "Employee Retention Is the Key to Minimizing Turnover Costs." Web log post. HR.COM Limited, 30 Sept. 2010.


"2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study." Cone Inc, 2010.


“2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey." Deloitte Development LLC, 2011.


"Closing the Engagement Gap: A Road Map for Driving Superior Business Performance.“ Towers Watson, 2008.


"Listen Up! The Talent Dialogue Approach to Employee Engagement." Deloitte Development LLC, 2009.


"Shaping the Future: Solving Social Problems Through Business Strategy."

Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, 2010.


"Social Good." J. Walter Thompson Company, Sept. 2011.


"Workplace Giving Works! Make It Work for You." LBG Research Institute and LBG Associates, 2010.


Did you know that Network for Good sees online giving activity spike by factors as high as ten in the days following a large-scale humanitarian or natural disaster?’s just one insight highlighted in a new disaster giving eGuide from Network for Good released this week.   How to Help: 5 Steps to Effective Corporate Disaster Campaigns provides insights gleaned from ten years of powering disaster donations and proactive recommendations to help companies expand their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to include timely and effective disaster giving campaigns for customers and employees.


In the wake of a disaster it is often difficult for companies to know when and how to respond.  It’s clear that employees and customers seek compelling ways to help those affected and they often look to corporate brands to lead the effort.  Companies are in a unique position to facilitate a response and focus resources and attention on a relevant call to action. 


This new eGuide seeks to cut through confusion about disaster response and present concrete steps companies can take to prepare a disaster plan and ensure their help is put to the best use.  The eGuide also highlights several corporate cause partnerships in action, including takaways from AOL, Campbell Soup Company, Capital One, Dell, Ryder, and Yahoo!.


American companies are among the most generous in the world. But generosity isn’t enough – real impact results from thoughtful giving where the need is greatest and the funds will be put to the best use. Take this opportunity to bring the right people together within your company to work through this five-step process and ensure that your corporate disaster response is both generous and smart.


Disaster Plan Image.png

Visit to learn more, download the PDF, and join the #How2Help conversation.

“A vibrant workplace can change the world. A world-class organization has a 12:1 ratio of happy to unhappy employees.”



On October 6th, I had the pleasure of attending the virtual session of the 6th Annual Best Practices in Change and Internal Communications Summit (#changesummit11), hosted by Edelman and CECP.  The day-long event featured CSR practitioners speaking to the benefits and challenges of making corporate citizenship a pillar of strategy.  I was particularly inspired by the first presentation, “View from the C-suite: Shifting Purpose from siloed corporate responsibility to competitive necessity and advantage: why employees are at the center of Purpose”, featuring Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s and Chairman of CECP.  Below is a summary of Campbell Soup Company’s employees engagement approach and more notable quotes from the presentation.




At Campbell Soup Company, CSR and employee engagement are each distinct categories that have been added to the company’s 5 core strategic areas of focus, all of which are reported on in the annual report.  The company has made a conscious effort to build CSR into the fabric of how it goes to market.  The Campbell Success Model prioritizes engagement across the workplace, marketplace and community.  The company understands that it can’t effectively play in the marketplace if the workforce is not engaged.  Further, marketplace performance is enhanced by investments that also create an impact in the world beyond commerce.  And you have to do it all with integrity. 



Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from Doug Conant:



"We're in business to perform. It needs to be a results driven model. You have to do what you SAY you will do. "




"As you think of the most profound people on your life, they probably had world-class standard and you KNEW they cared about you.  We need leaders/organizations to be mentors in the same way."




"Winning in the community is really winning WITH the community. As you do better in the marketplace, you can better help the world."




"You cannot talk yourself out of something you behaved yourself into."




“Corporations create ALL the wealth. We need to concentrate on what we CAN do versus what we haven't done”.


“Consumers globally believe companies have an explicit responsibility to help change the world.”


The 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study highlights results from a survey of 10,000 consumers in 10 countries (United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, India and Japan).  This survey includes 10 of the 11 largest countries in the world by GDP, representing just over half of the world’s population.  The report includes rich information on consumer attitudes to corporate responsibility (CR) and it’s definitely worth a full read.  You can access the report here.


Bottom line: Consumers expect to be invited to a conversation with companies about their authentic and transparent CR efforts.    If they suspect anything less than real social impact (no green-washing, please!), they will vote with their wallets and their voice to boycott your company.  Read on for more takaways from this groundbreaking study.  What you learn will no doubt inform the evolution on your company’s CR initiatives.


Cone CR Study Image.jpg 


Consumers believe that the role of business in society is to change it for the better.  The expectation is that companies will consider total stakeholder value, not just total shareholder value.

  • 93% say companies must go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly and that businesses should do something in the communities in which they operate.
  • 81% say companies should do even more, including:

-        Change the way they operate to align with greater social and environmental needs

-        Support larger issues with donations & time

-        Advocate for change



While the majority of consumers believe that companies have the power and duty to support several issue areas (from education to the environment to health to human rights and to hunger), economic development is the most popular.  The global recession of 2009 and continued economic challenges around the world have called renewed attention to the effects of economic instability.  Consumers understand that solving this problem provides the foundation to address all the other needs from poverty alleviation to food security to healthcare and so on.  Additionally, when consumers see companies supporting these issues that they care about, they are more loyal, trusting and likely to recommend those companies.



Remarkably, consumers say companies should address important social issues, not by philanthropy and volunteerism alone, but by changing the way they do business – developing new core competencies and new products and solutions with double bottom line impact.


“Companies around the world are using their core competencies to create solutions to the world’s challenges, from supply chain innovations that address poverty in markets where they operate, to for-profit products and services that serve the bottom of the pyramid. This study demonstrates that not only are consumers giving companies permission to alter the social paradigm, they understand it is imperative for real change.”



By now, we are all familiar with the statistic that a majority (94%) of consumers will switch brands to one associated with a good cause, price and quality being equal.  But people are taking their conscious consumerism to a new level.  Consumers more and more vote with their wallets to purchase products with an environmental or social benefit.  In fact, in the past twelve months more than 2/3 of consumers have done just that.  And while they demand conscious products, these consumers are quick to boycott a company that acts irresponsibly or promotes inauthentic cause initiatives.  Consumers can smell green-washing and pink-washing from a mile away.


When it comes to using purchasing power to support or boycott companies, consumer intention and actual behavior are well aligned.  However, when it comes to donating or volunteering in support of a cause, consumer desire and behavior are farther apart. 


“Evidently, consumers want to participate; they may just need to be asked.”



Consumers expect reciprocal communication with companies about social and environmental impact. 

  • 93% of consumers want to know what companies are doing in CR
  • 91% want to be heard , too
  • 89% believe companies share only the positive information about their efforts, while withholding the negative
  • 71% are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their efforts and impacts
  • 88% say it’s ok if a company is not perfect, as long as it is honest about its efforts


Even though consumers want a dialog with companies about CR issues, they still rely primarily on traditional (one-way) communication channels to learn about corporate efforts.  Product packaging, media and advertising are the most effective channels.  However, consumers (89%) still expect companies to use both traditional and new media (website, social media, mobile) to communicate about CR issues.


Country Snapshot: US

American consumers want companies to have a positive impact on society, but they have differing opinions about what role companies should play, including:

  • Advocate for change (27%)
  • Support larger issues through donations (24%)
  • Play a more limited role in society (23%)
  • Change the way they operate to align with bigger social and environmental needs (20%)


American consumers also tend to be more traditional in their views on how companies can have a social and environmental impact.  Philanthropy and volunteerism, especially at the local community level, remain CR priorities.  The opportunity for US-based companies is to create a defined CR strategy that addresses both philanthropic priorities and responsible business practices.  Then communicate those goals and progress to all stakeholders using the appropriate mix of traditional and new media channels.  Consumers demand transparency and authentic engagement from companies and expect US multinationals to set the global CR example.


Corporate cause partnerships work best when there is good mission fit, measurable program goals, strong internal engagement and authentic commitment from leadership.  Those are a few of the key takeaways from the recent Artez Interactive employee engagement webinar.  In addition, employees look for easy participation in cause programs, an understanding of the cause mission, transparency about impact and incentives for participation – and those perks don’t have to be for the employee’s benefit (matching grants work, too).


A highlight of the webinar was a presentation by Tamara Rebanks, VP of Community Affairs at George Weston Ltd (GWL) – a large Canadian food company, on her company’s employee fundraising campaign.  October 2010 was the first Wonder+ Cares Employee Fundraising Month at GWL.  This employee initiative aligned with the company’s overall corporate giving mandate and cause program, Wonder+ Cares, an initiative that supports the overall wellbeing and development of Canadian kids by promoting active lifestyles and play.  Employees were encouraged to support a local chapter of one of five Canadian charities that serve kids: Boys & Girls Club of Canada, YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Club Des Pétits Déjuners Du Québec and Maggie’s Place. 


Employees could take part in three ways: online fundraising, payroll giving and participating in local events and their donations were matched $1:$1 by GWL.  GWL even match donations from employee friends and family members who joined the campaign.  It was important to GWL that employee donations served the local communities in which they live and work and that they felt empowered to make a difference together and with their social networks. 


The campaign raised almost $400,000, with $192,048 raised by the employees before matching funds.  Much of GWL staff are assembly line workers earning $15 an hour, who understand the value of community organizations.  Their participation was particularly inspiring to GWL.  To illustrate, a Nova Scotia plant opted to fundraise for a small, local nonprofit, Maggie’s Place.  The plant manager urged 100% participation from the employees and set a fundraising goal of $1,600.  The plant raised $15,000 on the first day of the campaign.


GWL asserts that the local connection was what made this campaign truly successful, not the fact that it was a national program.  Employees connected to their communities and valued GWL’s support to help them make a bigger impact as a group.


Here are a few lessons learned from GWL to help inform your employee giving initiatives:


  1. Employees who are engaged in the community are more loyal.
  2. Friendly competition between divisions not only raises more money for good causes, but also gives insights into leadership effectiveness within divisions.
  3. Storytelling and personal anecdotes from nonprofits and employee participants are important.  Put a human face to the shared mission.
  4. Ask the participating nonprofits for an update 6 months after the campaign to report back to the employees on impact.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of online channels for participation.  Before this campaign, GWL had never had an online giving program, but 41% of employee donations came in online.

From CSR to Adaptive Advantage

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-03-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

Full disclosure, I used to work for The Boston Consulting Group in their Innovation, Marketing and Communications group.

A highlight of the CR Commit! Forum last week was a presentation by Martin Reeves, Senior Partner & Managing Director at The Boston  Consulting Group.  Reeves gave a preview of soon-to-be released thinking on ‘sustainable competitive advantage’ that is part of the ‘Sustainability Initiative’, a collaboration between BCG and MIT Sloan Management Review.


According to Reeves, there is currently an erosion of traditional competitive advantage due to several factors:

  • Economic turbulence and uncertainty
  • Information revolution
  • Rise of business ecosystems (and fall of traditional vertical integration model)
  • Explosion of social feedback


These factors are profoundly changing the meaning and application of strategy, especially as it relates to CSR.  It’s no longer enough to think about competitive advantage from the perspective of market position and capabilities.  Now, companies need to think about an adaptive strategy that factors in five additional types of advantage – and adjust business models accordingly.  A company seeking to create a ‘sustainable’ competitive advantage considers the following dimensions from the environmental, social and economic perspectives. 

  • Signal/information patterns (e.g. Google)
  • Experimentation/processes to improve economics of trial & error in R&D (e.g. 3M, P&G)
  • Organization/human context (e.g. Netflix)
  • Systems (e.g. Apple)
  • Social (e.g. Nintendo)


Reeves asserts that being good doesn’t pay dividends in and of itself.  Rather, cultivating an adaptive capability to adjust business strategies and processes in response to not just economic realities, but also to social and environmental opportunities and challenges, drives long-term success.   This school of CSR thought aligns with the ‘shared value’ approach that champions both profit and social good.  This approach is more holistic than other CSR paradigms such as: compliance/risk management, ethical considerations, reputation management/PR, economic preservation.  For example, a company with a ‘shared value’ mindset might adapt its current business model to conform to new environmental practices that minimize consumption and pollution and as a result create a new market or reach a new consumer base that values that social impact.


Here are some starting tips from Reeves to move your company towards adaptive competitive advantage:

  1. Read change signals
  2. Foster experimentation
  3. Manage context (cultivate strategy from the bottom up)
  4. Modulate and evolve your business model
  5. Create shared purpose
  6. Maintain cognitive diversity, redundancy and modularity
  7. Enable interaction, feedback and transparency
  8. Harness social problem solving
  9. Create win-win games and ecosystems
  10. Align value flows for sustainability and advantage


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About This Blog

Companies for Good shares insights on cause marketing and corporate social responsibility topics to inform your charitable engagement with consumers and employees. Network for Good empowers corporate partners to unleash generosity and advance good causes. The blog celebrates that work and provides expertise and resources to help you do well and do good. Learn more

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