Taking CSR Back a Decade?

I just read a piece in the MIT Sloan Management Review titled “Does Social Responsibility Help Protect a Company’s Reputation?”

It seems to put CSR back into the realms of spending money on good causes simply to build good will for an organization. Coming from the MIT Sloan Review this is a worrying context.

As I read it, the piece implies that corporate responsibility is about spending money to build a good reputation with the intention that this will help insure against loss of customers when something goes wrong.

This is a transparently cynical activity if put under the guise of corporate responsibility.  I would suggest actions like this will (and should) backfire and for good reason.  That component of corporate responsibility designed to mitigate risk should be about taking the right corporate actions to reduce the chance things will go wrong and putting plans in place such that if they do go wrong rapid and appropriate action can be put in place to remedy the problem.

A more valuable corporate responsibility survey would look at whether people looked more kindly on companies that had comprehensive safeguards in place when things went wrong than on those that didn’t.

A dollar invested in good causes as a mitigating factor for reduced public perception when things do go wrong is advertising and marketing and that has its place, but it is not corporate responsibility.


  1. Comments 1

  2. Eduardo Serra 2:36 am on April 5, 2011

    Hi, I agree 100% with this post. CR is not about spending money on social action and philanthropy to mitigate reputation risks when things go wrong. On the contrary, as the author of this post says, CR is "about taking the right corporate actions to reduce the chance things will go wrong and putting plans in place such that if they do go wrong rapid and appropriate action can be put in place to remedy the problem." Telefónica's Managing Director on Corporate Reputation & Corporate Responsibility, Alberto Andreu, gives his view on the current status of CSR, the problems it faces and how it should move forward in a post published in Telefónica Public Policy Blog: http://www.publicpolicy.telefonica.com/blogs/ In his opinion the concept of CR is broken and it must be fixed. He advocates for the definition made by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI): “Corporate Sustainability – it states – is a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental and social developments”.


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