Blogs & Comment

CSR Predications for 2008

It seems only right to start the year off with a few predictions for 2008. First a personal anecdote. On Saturday, we celebrated the last weekend of the holiday season by taking our kids to Ross Pettys production of Peter Pan at the Elgin Theatre. For me, the only disappointment was the product placement for event sponsor BMO Financial Group that was written into the script. For those who werent lucky enough to see this otherwise outstanding and spirited performance, Captain Hook is forced into a Jeopardy-ish contest to see if he can out-wit four 5-year olds selected from the audience. The first question was What is BMO? Astonishingly, the first child actually recognized BMO as the Bank of Montreal a feat for which at one level the marketing folks at BMO deserve kudos.

However, the BMO message felt neither authentic nor genuine, adjectives that are key to successful corporate responsibility communications. Would BMO have been better served with the profile it received on the playbill, the tickets, the web site, and in the advertising? I think so. Will any of those in attendance switch banks to become more loyal towards BMO? I doubt it. Is there a possibility that some people may actually be turned-off by the bank? Im sure of it.

As I look ahead, there are four interrelated predictions I have for CSR in 2008:

As above, that more corporations do the right thing and do things in the right way. CSR should be a competitive advantage but it can also become a risk/liability when executed and communicated inappropriately.

That CSR continues to move from the margin to the mainstream. My hope is that a year from now, well start to see annual reports for 2008 that also incorporate CSR performance. Separate CSR reports usually preach to the converted (and arent environmentally responsible).

That there is more internal communication, understanding, and leverage of CSR initiatives between functions as needed to ensure more business value. There are many opportunities including more effective recruitment and on-boarding, adding depth and meaning to corporate and consumer brands, and positively influencing instiutional investors and other shareholders.

That CSR starts to live and breathe at the intersections of corporations and their stakeholders. All too often, even a corporations most valued audiences (usually employees and customers) arent aware of what its doing to be responsible. It is possible to communicate CSR in a way that is seen to be genuine and is complementary to sales of products and services.