Blogs & Comment

How to Leverage Citizenship to Improve Your Reputation

My last post included highlights of the 2009 State of Corporate Citizenship in the United States. One of the findings that struck me as being remarkable was that 70% of corporation cited reputation as a key driver for corporate citizenship.
I agree that reputation should be a key driver of corporate citizenship and that CSR can have a very positive impact on how corporations are seen in the minds of employees and external stakeholders. However, in spite the findings in the report, I don’t think that many corporations are actually known for what they do in this area. (There’s also an irony here because there’s now much more emphasis on communicating CSR-related initiatives.) And, if stakeholders aren’t of what corporations do to be good corporate citizens, the impact of these activities on reputation must not be significant.
Yesterday, I met with a large Canadian corporation that has a long history of corporate citizenship and for whom this area is very important at a cultural level. They also communicate what they do in this area in a way that is both conspicuous and appropriate. However, their reputation has been suffering – perhaps due to the recession’s impact on many public companies (see Edelman Trust Barometer).
What’s the best way to improve your company’s reputation by leveraging it’s commitment to being a good corporate citizen? Here are three ideas:
1. Start Inside: Employees are the best citizenship ambassadors and very often they aren’t familiar enough with or engaged in what their own companies are doing.
2. Operationalize: Develop products or services that reflect your company’s CSR strategy.
3. Leverage Partners: Communicate with and through non-profit partners. This adds credibility and creates interest among people who might not otherwise pay attention.
These approaches work best when they’re integrated. For example, while it’s clear that Starbucks’ commitment to CSR is reflected in its selection of fair trade coffee, it isn’t clear who it’s non-profit partners are or in what ways its employees are involved. Would the company’s reputation be positively influenced if more people knew about these these things? I think so.
More on this topic tomorrow. (Also, as always examples of best practices and of others that need to be impr0ved).