CEOs Not Seeing CSR as Driver of Long-term Success

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by: Jennifer Rice

In reading PWC’s 12th Annual Global CEO Study, I found the chart on "drivers of long-term success" during the downturn to be insightful on how CEOs view corporate social responsibility.

Specifically, while 63% rate brand strength and reputation as critical to success, CSR falls to the bottom of the pack with only 20% perceiving it as critical.

These findings suggest that business leaders are not seeing CSR as a strategic way to strengthen their brand and reputation. Interesting.

As I talk to people about Fruitful’s mission to align business strategy with social impact, most people immediately think of philanthropy. Few see social impact as a strategic growth platform integral to the brand and business. I believe that will change given consumers’ lack of trust in "business as usual" and the increase of businesses that perceive no conflict between the desires of shareholders and society at large.

GE is a great example of a company that has so tightly aligned CSR with their brand that it’s hard to tease the two apart. "Ecomagination is a business initiative to help meet customer demand for more energy-efficient products and to drive reliable growth for GE; growth that delivers for investors long-term."

Eventually, the 80% of business will follow the 20% of leaders like Immelt who value the business-critical role of CSR (or as I’ve redefined it, corporate social opportunity.) As Immelt once said, We’re not in the business of hobbies. We’re in the business of making things that are economically justifiable."

Are you relegating social impact to philanthropy or feel-good programs? Then it’s time to shift your thinking about social impact from hobby to win-win competitive advantage. Yes, you may have to cut some pet projects to reallocate CSR resources to better support and align with your brand and business goals. You’ll find that it will pay off.

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