It’s no news that CSR and PR are closely interrelated. In a company, every action must be supervised by PR in order to make sure that no conflicts or misunderstandings arise. On the other hand, CSR is all about environmental issues, respecting human rights at the workplace and ethical approaches.
The main question that arises is: do companies use CSR as a PR tool? Critics would argue that CSR programmes are undertaken to distract the public from the core issues and that corporations use CSR as a tool for their commercial benefit, by building relationships.
From my perspective, the majority of companies do boost their credibility and image due to their CSR activity, but the core issue is whether they use it just to promote their brand and be seen as a trustworthy, responsible and environmental-friendly company, or they actually undertake CSR activities with a real feeling of contributing to the community.
In 2010, Marks & Spencer was named the UK’s greenest supermarket by Ethical Consumer magazine, based on companies’ policies on ethical and environmental issues such as animal welfare, workers’ rights and sustainable sourcing. In this case, did M & S have any PR benefits? Of course, the news was all over the media and this “award” brought them a lot of extra credibility.
Did their profits register a tremendous increase? As Diana was saying, people that care more about price that quality and can’t afford to shop from M & S won’t change their behaviour just because of this national recognition; but on the other hand, being named the UK’s greenest supermarket certainly brought M & S an advantage in comparison to its closest competitors: Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, etc.
So, in my view, any CSR activity carries PR benefits, but I think it’s highly unethical of a company to undertake CSR approaches and activities, just for media coverage and building reputation. Any CSR campaign should be based on a real concern and care for ethical behaviour, environmental impact and respecting human rights.