How to communicate CSR credibly?

Corporate Social Responsibility is everywhere. But simply implementing appropriate CSR measures isn’t enough, these must also be communicated credibly and authentically.

Corporate Social ResponsibilityCSR for short – pertains to a company’s social responsibility, encompasses economic, ecological, and social aspects. Current political debates and media coverage in general revolve around climate policy more often than ever before and thus also fuel the topic of CSR. More than ever, there is accountability for companies to fulfill their social responsibility. CSR has long since ceased to considered an option but rather is now seen as an obligation for companies to be fulfilled.

Developments in this area have led to CSR now having a decisive influence on corporate success. This is because companies that are deemed socially responsible are more successful in the long term and can also gain an economic competitive advantage.

CSR commitments, for example, has a positive effect on a company’s reputation. On the one hand, this increases the attractiveness of the company as an employer, and on the other hand, it also offers starting points for positive reporting in this regard. In addition, companies that strive to implement CSR within their company in a sustainable manner are also more open to innovation, which in turn can also result in competitive advantages.

However, implementation alone is not enough – the activities must also be disclosed and communicated in a transparent manner.

Ph Unsplash free

Externally and internally: Think global, act local

CSR communication should be understood as a process that serves to inform the company’s internal and external stakeholders about how truthfully and transparently it integrates social and environmental concerns into its business activities.

The communication strategy depends, amongst other things, on whether the company is only active locally, regionally, nationally, or worldwide. Due to globalisation, many companies are not limited to a local market. Communication must be adapted to these changed conditions.

Companies that are globally active should also assume global social responsibility. True to the motto “think global, act local”, this can succeed. Here it is important – just as with local measures – to know the stakeholders. A stakeholder analysis helps to gain an overview of how individual stakeholders relate to the company and what interests they have in the company’s activities.

Combine activities: Clear messaging is key

Stakeholder relations are highly dynamic: depending on the measure or activity, the stakeholders have varying degrees of interest in it.

It is important to note that internal and external stakeholders are of equal importance for the success of stringent CSR communication; the prerequisite being that CSR is also firmly anchored in the company’s strategy.

It can also be effective to combine the bundled activities under one tagline: Tchibo, for example, uses the slogan “Gut Gemacht”, the football club Werder Bremen, bundles its activities under the name “WERDER BEWEGT”.

What matters: Finding the fit between the activities and the company itself. Only in this way does it remain authentic, and the overarching leitmotif provides a structure for consistent communication.

Those who are globally engaged should establish a uniform umbrella for communication, considering local characteristics as well as the location of international commonalities.

Dorene Petersen, founder and president of American College of Healthcare Sciences, is pictured at ta sustainable vetiver plantation and distillery in Java, where she spent a morning harvesting vetiver with the women (ph Penny Platt – Unsplash free)

Let actions speak on all channels

For internal CSR communication, it is above all important that all employees have access to the information.

Regular exchange formats such as Q&A sessions or working cycles on the topic of sustainability are a good way ensure employees are all hands on deck when embarking on a journery to more corporate responsibility. When it comes to external communication, it is important not to let CSR take place only on the homepage. CSR should be an undercurrent across all channels, reinforced through CEO statements in press releases or on LinkedIn.

Another option for companies is to appoint CSR ambassadors, i.e., ambassadors who act as focal points on the topic both internally and externally. Blogs or regular sustainability reports are also an effective communication tool.

Consistency pays off: Walk your CSR Talk

The Otto Group, for example, runs its own sustainability blog, Bertelsmann publishes a corporate responsibility magazine entitled “Faces of Responsibility”.

The possibilities for companies are manifold. If internal and external CSR communication are interlinked, theme days or theme weeks can be a way to draw attention to the topic of CSR.

The overriding principle in CSR communication is that there is no gap between the CSR Talk and the CSR Walk. The talk is the communication around the topic, the walk is the concrete implementation of CSR strategies, structures, and processes.

In the case of CSR, putting words into action, the so-called “twalking” is recommended. CSR practices are anchored in a continuous flow of communication, culminating the walk and the talk continuously.

In this way, gaps are less likely to arise that cast doubt on the credibility of CSR measures in the external perception and may lead to corporate responsibility being perceived as greenwashing.

The point of contact for CSR communication is the PR-B Boutique in Luxembourg.