Gone are the days when businesses were able to operate for profit alone. As technology advances globalisation, it has also advanced societal awareness of issues such as climate change, gender equality, cultural tolerance, sustainability, the value of education, and the desire to alleviate poverty and suffering. Companies are now expected to take a moral stance on these issues if they don’t want their bottom lines to suffer.
Is corporate citizenship the way to go?
Corporate citizenship is the idea that a brand or business recognises its social, cultural and environmental responsibility towards the planet … or at least to the community in which it operates.
With an increasingly informed society and hyper-social consciousness, brands can no longer act solely in their own best interests. They need to be seen to be taking a stand.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are therefore a manifestation of an organisation’s moral and ethical character. Whether these CSR efforts are in place to take care of employees, the community, or advance a positive change, there are few large businesses in SA that can afford to ignore the CSR imperative.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have only magnified the issues in SA, and with government funds that are insufficient to alleviate the need, it’s up to the private sector (and consumers) to step in.
Though brands invest hard cash into CSR, the goodwill generated means that even some of the most controversial brands are able to curry favour with consumers. But there are always limitations.
First, brands that decide to invest in corporate citizenship need to be committed and passionate about what they are supporting. Whether it’s animal welfare, the arts, the environment, school feeding schemes, entrepreneurial development and the like, they need to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. Doing CSR for CSR’s sake alone will translate as insincerity. Brands really have to care.
Second, brands need to commit funds and resources. This is where decision-making based solely on return on investment often creates a barrier. Knowing where to find the balance is an art and a science. But it really comes down to a brand’s social conscience and the role it can afford to play.
Amid this discussion, the media can mobilise action by raising awareness and motivating public buy-in. Brand advertising campaigns that align with a CSR initiative are therefore able to win on two counts: while they’re doing good for someone else, they’re also doing good for their own reputation. The bottom line results should follow.
Join the Future of Media online conference series as a panel of experts take a closer look at the role of corporate citizenship in the SA media context. We’ll take a look at the media and brands that are doing it right, and doing well.
Panelists in the discussion, moderated by Siya Sangweni include:
- Jeanine Rainier – general manager, TILT
- Lyndon Barends – group strategy and sales, Arena Holdings
- Hennie Myburgh – programme manager, Jacaranda FM
- Natalie Botha – director of creative development, Kantar
- Thami Majola – executive head: brand and communications, Vodacom
Date: Wednesday, April 7