Some brands and some sectors have baggage. They’re seen as bad. Or they have a reputation for behaving badly. Or they are still trying to win back confidence after a disaster. Or they’re part of a sector that people don’t like. Or a segment of the population would like them to go away. For whatever reason they can’t seem to convince their detractors that they have good intentions. Critics love to hate on them. They attack these brands for what they sell, what they support, what they don’t support, what they say or don’t say. They cast doubt on their motivations. They draw attention to their shortfalls … I have no problem with this in one sense. The right to examine and critique is a sign of a robust democracy. So is the right to dissent.
This analysis of the top 612 publicly traded companies reveals that while the conversation around responsibility is now in full flight, the words, for the most part, are well ahead of the deeds. The contrasts speak for themselves.
Some years back, Deborah Doane wrote a hard-hitting article about the “myth of CSR”. In it, she argued that CSR was a reaction rather than an action; that it was essentially a collective response to uprisings against the behaviours and morals of corporate institutions and that it had been encouraged by an historically weak NGO sector as a way to bring about change. Her concerns mirror many that I have independently raised.
Almost every brand I work with has a community policy, an environmental policy, a sustainability policy … as they should. And everyone seems to acknowledge that the policy or policies they have form an important part of their reputation and their stakeholder relations … as they should. And yet precious few brands have actively connected those social responsibility activities with their brand.