When asked, most people say the objective of Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) communication is to build a positive image of the organization by informing the public of its CSR activities.
While this response is partly true, it reflects only a small aspect of CSR communication. The assumption that public awareness building is synonymous with CSR communication is one reason why many organizations are unable to reap the full benefits of their CSR activities.
At Schema we believe that for CSR activities to be successful, communication must begin in the early stages and include all relevant stakeholders; and for CSR communication to be effective, it must be both internal and external.
The key to effective communication is identifying the right messages, to be sent to the right stakeholders, using the right mediums, and at the right times.
As such, a key component of Schema’s CSR communication approach is to identify what information should be conveyed to stakeholders and to formulate communication plans accordingly, leveraging internal tools such as organizational websites, newsletters and packaging where relevant, as well as external tools such as public relations and other mediums.
There are multiple benefits that come from effective CSR communication, but we aim with our clients to set CR communication strategies that would ultimately create ownership and build trust among stakeholders:
Ownership of CSR activities is key to ensuring programs are developed and implemented in line with the identified vision and objectives. CSR activities often involve multiple participants with different responsibilities, both from the organization and external partners or suppliers. Keeping these stakeholders fully informed, not just of the requirements of the activity but also of the vision and the commitment of the organization, creates ownership which in turn drives dedication, initiatives, and positive word-of-mouth within this stakeholder group.
It is also important to ensure the proper channels are in place for communication with the board and other high-level stakeholders so they remain aware and involved with the organization’s CSR activities.
Trust creates confidence, builds loyalty, and translates into commitment. All of which are key to the sustainable growth of an organization. This is why trust is perhaps one of the most valuable assets an organization can have with all stakeholder groups, including but not limited to employees, the board, investors, legislators, suppliers, partners, consumers, the community and the general public.
Effective CSR communication is not about self-promotion, it helps stakeholders know what the organization stands for and conveys its commitment to responsibility and sustainability. Transparency, as in everything else, is key in CSR communication. Organizations must be honest about their CSR activities and be clear and consistent in their messages, explaining why the organization has chosen specific CSR platforms and keeping stakeholders informed of the activities.
While there are many ways vehicles through which the organization’s commitment to CSR can be communicated, one of the most important is through an annual Sustainability Report. Helping our clients create these reports is one of the many services we offer at Schema.
Click here to read about our Sustainability Reporting services.