January 23, 2019

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Communicating CSR on the Internet

Communicating CSR on the Internet

There’s no doubt that in this age of Truth, Trust, Transparency and Accountability–what I call the “Three Ts and an A” of the new communications landscape–the notion that a business can hide behind the firewall or front gates is almost extinct.
The Internet has enabled anyone with an interest in uncovering ‘dirt’ to go ferreting through the virtual garbage bins in search of gossip and juicy stories.
So the onus, if not burden, is on companies to be honest about how they are acting within the global environment, who are the drivers and advocates for any social initiatives they might be involved in, and in what way they are contributing to their local societies and communities.
The idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not new; although there is no single, authoritative definition of what it means, most communicators and researchers broadly understand it as the type and scope of social obligations that corporations must consider in the course of their everyday business practices (also known as ‘BAU’ or ‘Business As Usual’).
But if there is any one ‘missing link’ between the ideas and practice of social obligation and society’s awareness of it, it is the link called ‘communication.’
Which, for a bunch of professional communicators, is a pretty sad indictment on our profession–either *we* don’t value communicating about CSR, or else *we* have done a rotten job of ‘selling’ the value of it to our senior management team. Either way, the ‘buck’ pretty much stops with us, *not* our bosses.
There is a real business imperative to both be involved in our local communities *and* to effectively communicate it. Any company looking to recruit the brightest and best must be aware that these days those calibre employees are looking at not only what’s in it for them but also what’s in it for the environment and society. Because no one wants to risk their own career by working for a company that may be exposed as a major polluter, as an exploiter of cheap labour, as an unethical trader.
So if we accept that CSR is a key, albeit non-mandatory, component of corporate communication, then why is it that so few companies engage in it?
A survey of corporate websites in the IT sector showed a strikingly low number communicated *anything* about their CSR activities, let alone gave any extensive detail about their activities. Back in 2003, Chambers *et al* reiterated the general assumption that the greater the extent of reporting, the more engaged the company is with CSR and the more seriously it is taken therein.
Which, when one considers that some of these IT companies are of the ilk of Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Microsoft, then it is disappointing to think that their potential recruits are given no insight into any country-level social initiatives they are involved in.
If IT companies, with their legions of web-savvy communicators, can’t get something as important as CSR communication right, how little is your company doing? And more importantly, what are you doing about it?
Sources: Chaudhri, V., Wang, J., 2007. Communicating corporate social responsibility on the internet: a case study of the top 100 information technology companies in India
Chambers, E., Chapple, W., Moon, J., & Sullivan, M., 2003. CSR in Asia: a seven country study of CSR Website reporting (RP-9). Nottingham, UK: International Center for Corporate Social Responsibility
*Lee Hopkins is a business communications consultant specializing in internal communications. He blogs regularly at [leehopkins.net](http://leehopkins.net/), and is a regular contributor to the [For Immediate Release podcast](http://forimmediaterelease.biz/).*

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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