CSR: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

By Warren Leppik

Warren Leppik is the Chief Storytelling Officer at Cognition Productions, an advocate marketing company in Oakville. More effective than traditional advertising because of the authenticity of real human connections, his proprietary process harnesses the voices and experiences of your company’s customers to drive your marketing, engagement & growth strategies.

Visit www.cognitionproductions.com to learn more.


Over the past few months, I have come across several articles related to the lip-service being paid to Corporate Social Responsibility. This article in Adweek stood out: “A New Survey From The Economist Finds More Executives Talk About Social Good Than Act on It”. According to Marty Swant “48% of respondents said they felt businesses that operate with purpose beyond profit actually end up gaining a “financially competitive advantage” in their markets. However, even more—78%—said companies talk about it more than they invest in long-term initiatives to support it.”

So what’s the problem? Is it really so hard to get involved? Is it complicated? Cost prohibitive? Time intensive? I would like to take an optimistic stance and would hazard a guess that, rather than being intentionally delinquent, it has more to do with figuring out how best to get started becomes just another item on an overloaded agenda. But there are tangible business benefits, and a way to mitigate an underestimated “values-based” faux pas, by ensuring that your corporate social responsibility is more than just a plaque on the lobby wall.

In an article entitled “How to Improve Customer Relationships With Brand Authenticity” author John Turner states, “According to the Consumer Content Report from Stackla, 86 percent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. Show, don’t tell. Every company should have a set of values that they stand for. But it’s not enough to just tell consumers what you believe in; you have to show them. Any company can write on its “About Us” page that they believe in giving back to the community. But that doesn’t mean much if your customers and prospects can’t see it in action. If you SAY you put a strong emphasis on giving back to the community, you had better SHOW your customers you mean it by giving back to local charities with donations or offering your time and knowledge to empower others. Brand authenticity will not only make your current customers happier but will also help you attract new customers by making your company stand out from the rest.”

Beyond just doing what you said you were going to do, the ancillary benefits to being a good corporate citizen are many. It brings to mind interviews I did for the United Way of Halton and Hamilton last year about involvement with their Workplace Campaigns. Jarvis Sheridan, Partner at O’Connor MacLeod Hanna LLP believes “We have an enhanced profile because of our involvement with the United Way Workplace Campaign. People respect the fact that we are not just a bunch of money-grubbing lawyers. We are there to feel that our responsibility to the community is being met in very many ways. Because we do have that responsibility. We’re doing OK and we need to give back”.

Finally, in a content marketing world gone mad, with people making up stuff to feed hungry content marketing calendars, what you do in the community becomes a gold mine of authentic feel good stories, proof of your company’s values. Beyond text, you can use video to harness the emotional power of impact stories from people whose lives were changed by the charities you support. The resulting videos build awareness of the need for what the charity does, motivates more people to get involved and shows quite clearly that your Corporate Social Responsibility program is the real deal.