Using social identity theory, Cornwell and Coote found that if supporters of a non-profit organization know of a mutually beneficial relationship between it and a company that knowledge and the identification with the non-profit positively predict consumer purchase intentions. Barone, Miyazaki, and Taylor found a positive connection between cause-oriented marketing and consumer relations.
CR also has shown value by reducing costs and gaining support. Carroll argued that CR pays for itself. Other assumptions relevant to the bottom line are these:. These factors translate into axioms that Carroll argued serve the good of the company and community: Do good for the community, be ethical, obey the law in spirit as well as principle, and make a profit or generate revenue regardless of the type of organization that is put to proper purpose. Carroll used these principles to formulate the pyramid of corporate social responsibility:. As is often the case on thought provoking topics, the CSR literature has produced a variety of definitions, each of which features the advantages to be accrued from CSR.
However platitudinous various CSR definitions are, at least four realities are ever present in management discussions and strategic planning regarding CSR:. Such considerations demand that CSR is more than strategic philanthropy or community relations, such as efforts to sponsor little league teams and engage in goodwill fundraising. It is more than the sort of odious public relations where accommodation and being nice is seen to be more effective than engaging in policy development and implementation that achieves a true community of interest, now ever more global and focused on sustainability.
Expectations of how organizations should perform change over time. One of the strongest CSR roles of public relations is to participate in the social construction of the meaning that defines and evaluates CSR standards by type of organization and during a given era. The contrasting point, and the theme of post-modern discussions of corporate responsibility, is this: What is good for society is good for General Motors. CSR is the foundation for achieving mutually aligned interests and winning the moral argument about the social relevance of the organization.
The modern approach to organizational management was to communicate in ways that shaped markets to the advantage of businesses—an inside-out approach to relationships. A post modern approach suggests that an outside-in approach is more capable of creating and sustaining relationships by achieving truly mutual and aligned interests. This attention to mutual and aligned interests forms a moral argument for CSR. To do so requires issue monitoring and critical thinking which are second nature to effective strategic issues management as public relations:.
Not all stakeholders see the world in the same way. Interests often conflict. Priorities differ.
High standards of corporate responsibility foster aligned relationships and can avoid costly conflict. Good performance is a bottom-line issue. These two outcomes build a rational or economic argument for CSR. This view of CSR builds on what is best about the efficiency and rational market argument supporting the private sector.
In addition, CSR is an argument of economic self-interest for business because it allows companies to reflect the needs and concerns of their various stakeholder groups and thus gain its societal legitimacy and maximize its financial viability. Similarly, Freeman suggested the stakeholder framework argues the firm is not responsible to society at large, but to specific stakeholders. CSR should focus on specific activities and target publics that are most desirable in terms of loyalty, trust, and goodwill Fombrun, , consumer purchase decisions, and the goals of the corporation so that ultimately the shareholder value is increased in ways that affirm the franchise to operate.
CSR is the foundation for understanding and meeting the challenges of global stakeholders. In the last half of the 20th Century, activist publics formed to change every aspect of business and government. What tended to start as local concern and networking increased to global proportion.
For this reason, the stakeholders of any organization play an increasingly important role in its standards of CSR. This approach reasoned that key stakeholder expectations were crucial to building harmony with targeted organizations. Basu and Palazzo highlighted the stakeholder driven approach to CSR is fundamental to a content approach whereby stakeholder standards are important for an organization to know and implement.
Planning and performance combine to achieve those standards. The motivation for achievement rests on the principle that reputation counts; it can bring revenue and reduce costs. This stakeholder rationale motivates authors such as Fombrun to merge public policy battles and crisis response. Stakeholder adjustments are important. It can also increase the likelihood that it will be a desirable relational partner in many ways such as a preferred provider of products or services.
Such dialogue can be framed as matters of the public good and ability of organizations to make appropriate adaptations to change. As a force in organizational and societal decision making, social capital can be seen as both bonding through shared meaning and governmental intervention and networking through shared interests and expectations. To achieve the fully functioning quality of each relationship, the client organization must have the management procedures and cultural commitment that lead to admiration rather than condemnation.
No efforts to foster effective relationships can preclude the need for the organization to be good, as a first step to being a good communicator Heath, How organizations implement CSR depends on how they define it, whether as a moral obligation and a rational approach to stakeholder satisfaction. It has implications for budgeting, return on investment, and measures of effectiveness.
As mentioned above, public relations practitioners not only participate in the dialogue to define CSR standards but they also play a crucial role in helping markets, audiences, and publics to be aware of the standards client organizations are willing and able to implement. CSR requires a comprehensive approach that, according to Basu and Palazzo , see especially page , features the classic troika of human nature:. Practitioners can participate in the cognitive, linguistic, and conative aspects of their organizations to foster the alignment of mutually beneficial interests in society.
Cognitive: Public relations, through issues monitoring, can play a vital role in helping the organization to know and think about changing CSR standards and the means for achieving them. The reality, however, is that beyond scanning for changing stakeholder expectations and helping to create a matrix of multidisciplinary players to learn about and analyze such changes, public relations is not expert on many of the matters that are at the core of CSR standards and performance management. Others in management must commit to a strong CSR program.
Accountants must recognize, appreciate, and implement higher financial management standards, as must general counsel, engineers, process experts, human resources specialists, nutritionists, environmental impact specialists, to mention only a few of the key disciplines.
Effective public relations and CSR requires every discipline in an organization to understand how an organization can improve, how that improvement enhances stakeholder relationships, and how it can be communicated. Such planning often requires practitioners to convince management that stakeholders are calling for higher engineering standards and processes to achieve employee or product safety, or even more daunting—sustainability.
Practitioners may not know what is required in terms of engineering standards or accounting practices. But, practitioners can ascertain that strains occur when key stakeholders expectations are not being met—or when they are being met but the stakeholders do not know that fact. Relevant to reputation and issue position are the terms that define a good organization and the socially responsible position on key issues. In such matters, meaning matters.
From this linguistic perspective, public relations can play a leadership role in understanding the terminology or linguistic changes in the communities where each organization operates—outside-in thinking. As the famous language theorist Kenneth Burke observed, we are interested in co-created meaning. Human experience can never free itself from the terminology operating at a given moment that filters views of physical and social realities including standards of corporate responsibility.
No useful discussion of CSR can ignore the terminological challenges, and the role of public relations in such efforts. Public relations helps to define key terms that become part of the general dialogue which influences how the ideology of and evaluation of CSR performance is conceived in each society in any era.
Therefore, practitioners should be especially trained and positioned to understand, appreciate, and respect the development of idioms that are current in private and public sector thinking and decision making. Conative: Discussing the conative dimension of CSR, Basu and Palazzo reasoned that it focuses on matters of posture, consistency, and commitment that define how firms tend and prefer to behave.
Organizations enact the standards of CSR in all that they say and do. Best practices companies believe transparency includes stating their CSR goals and then reporting how well they meet those goals. Such statements can help reduce any legitimacy gap by demonstrating how organizations meet or exceed the expectations of others. In this way, effective public relations can foster mutually beneficial relationships, which Heath and Coombs reasoned exhibit the following characteristics:.
Although CSR and public relations are not identical they must be interdependent to be effective: Being the good organization as prerequisite for being a good communicator. In truth, few articles on CSR focus on how it can be communicated.