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The right way to communicate your CSR

Previously we uncovered some of the obstacles that stand in the way of organisations wanting to communicate their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

But while we flagged some important things to consider before you embark on CSR communications, it shouldn’t put you off talking about your CSR activities altogether. If you are doing “good things”, you should be telling people – either directly or by third party endorsements.

Recently, we had the opportunity to hear some great tips for communicating CSR from QUT researcher Dr Bree Devin.

1. Make sure you’re really doing it
For stakeholders to accept you are being socially responsible, it’s not good enough for just one part of your organisation to be implementing a CSR strategy. To be genuine and for stakeholders to believe you, it needs to be entrenched through your entire organisation.

2. Are you contributing to the broader problem?
Despite your best intentions, some of your CSR strategies can inadvertently create or contribute to a broader problem outside your organisation. So while you are technically “doing the right thing”, you have merely pushed the problem onto someone else down the line.

3. Always tell the truth
If you’re planning on drawing attention to your organisation’s CSR and inviting public scrutiny, ensure you are being 100% truthful. Even a small mistruth has the potential to undo all your goodwill.

4. Keep the communication balanced
Whether it’s in your annual report or elsewhere, communicate the positives and negatives of your CSR activities. Stakeholders will appreciate your honesty and recognise that you are committed to continual improvement. So if you don’t quite recycle 10 tonnes of waste this year, let stakeholders know how close you got, why you didn’t reach your goal, and what you’re doing to ensure you reach your target next year.

5. Be upfront about your profit motivation
Increasingly, organisations are speaking about ‘creating shared values’ rather than CSR – acknowledging that being socially responsible is not only the right thing to do, but also makes good business sense. For this reason, it would be foolish to try and hide the fact that your organisation is financially benefiting from your CSR strategy, whether this is through reduced energy consumption, healthier staff, happier stakeholders etc.