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Corporate Social Responsibility: Ploy or the Real Deal?

By: Megan Ward

The latest annual study by the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient concludes that consumers are evenly split on how they feel about companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

Key findings:business-ethics

  • About 45% of consumers believe companies develop CSR programs because they genuinely care about doing what is right for their customers and employees, and for society at-large
  • However, 40% of consumers believe that businesses engage in CSR programs simply as a public relations tactic to enhance their public image and increase revenue
  • Proper treatment of employees and customers, as well as corporate ethical behavior, are the two most important factors that consumers look at when gauging if a company is truly committed to CSR
  • Only eight out of 100 companies achieved the poll’s “excellent” CSR rating; that’s the highest number ever
  • Some of the lowest ranking companies had recent public scandals. Wendy Salomon of The Harris Poll noted that because there have been so many crises and scandals of late “it makes sense that we see employee treatment, ethics, providing affordable products, and safety on top of consumers’ minds.”

According to Fortune some of the world’s most admired companies run CSR programs.

“One of the big mistakes brands make is [brands] dumb themselves down and play to the lowest common denominator by taking a profit mentality,” says Simon Mainwaring, CEO of brand consultancy We First Branding. “It’s the marriage of storytelling and integrity of what [businesses] [do] that gives them credibility in the marketplace.”