MTI Strategic Reflections

CSR projects must make a big impact

Corporate Social Responsibility has ceased being a mere ‘option’ and has instead become a definite ‘must-do’ for several organizations worldwide. Whether it’s the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or the Buffett Foundation, CSR has grown to become a major hot topic of the business world.
 
Apart from the marketing and ethical aspects, it isn’t hard to see the increasing appeal for CSR projects. The 2014 Nielsen “Doing Well by Doing Good” report stated that 55% of globally surveyed consumers would pay extra for a product/service from companies committed towards ensuring a positive social and environmental impact. Furthermore 67% of the surveyed individuals stated that they prefer to work for socially responsible companies.
 
With such favourable statistics it’s no surprise that there has been a significant increase in CSR projects undertaken by businesses, which on the face of it appears to be a good thing. However, MTI’s CSR research shows that businesses tend to undertake a multitude of micro initiatives for diverse social causes.
 
MTI’s qualitative research covering several business domains brought to the light the fact that several mid-tier and high-tier companies simply consider their independent and donation-based projects across small scale social issues – as impactful CSR initiatives. These companies rely on, for example, the one-off donation of stationary to a poverty stricken school or the refurbishment of a ward in a hospital, as what is necessary to dress up the “sustainability” portion of their annual reports. 
 
As a result, while the businesses may ‘feel good’, these initiatives lack ‘critical mass’ and focus, and thereby society does not benefit from the full potential of the combined CSR power of the business community. 
 
A global CSR study by Cone Communications in 2013 identified economic development (job creation, infrastructure development, etc.) as the one issue consumers most want companies to address. Therefore there exists a widely articulated need for macro-initiatives jointly coordinated by a number of companies that allows for the pooling of funds, competencies and resources. Doing so would enable these macro-initiatives to create a much greater impact than what could have been generated had the initiative been carried out in a diffused and independent manner.
 
Now imagine if all our ‘energies’ (not just money) are focused on a few major social challenges – what greater social progress would the private sector be able to make?