How to Build a Socially Responsible Brand in the PR Industry
Listen up, PR people! This week, we have a seasoned expert among us.
Working in the agency world for over 24 years and practicing communications globally, this guest brings quite a lot to the table.
Read below to learn all about #ESG and #CSR, and what these terms mean for business today...
What are ESG and CSR?
According to Market Business News, ESG stands for “Environmental Social and Governance, and refers to the three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company. Most socially responsible investors check companies out using ESG criteria to screen investments.”
Gallagher summarizes ESG beautifully, by focusing on the non-financial aspects that this metric accounts for, almost like a measure of ‘goodness:’
CSR, or corporate social responsibility, “is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders," as defined by UNIDO.
As you might infer, ESG and CSR interrelate. They both help quantify the impact businesses have on sustainability, ethics, and society at large.
“They're a way to define how a brand interacts with the world outside of its offices, from community to sustainability,” said Tom Basgil, a lead generation and social media consultant for B2B brands,
Why is ESG such a hot topic right now?
The world is begging for our help, both environmentally and socially. So, it only makes sense that businesses are expected to step up to the plate with their resources, along with everyone else.
“In the U.S. at least, the Black Lives Matter movement sparked a huge corporate reckoning as consumers demanded both socially responsible statements and concrete actions from brands,” Basgil said.
“My colleague John O'Brien MBE and I have written a book that goes into more detail on both concepts and their place in the evolution of purpose-driven business: Truth Be Told - How Authentic Marketing & Communications Wins In The Purposeful Age,” Gallagher shared.
“This follows a trend that predates the pandemic, and then accelerated by it,” he said. “People want brands and businesses to engage honestly and meaningfully. And investors want predictors of success.”
What are the challenges and opportunities that affect a purpose-driven brand?
The opportunities heavily outweigh the challenges...
How to set up a socially, environmentally responsible brand from the start? Make sure your motives are strong, as explained by Propel CEO and Co-Founder Zach Cutler:
Basgil brings up an important challenge; Many brands do a lot of talking, and not enough doing. They end up making empty promises rather than a difference.
“Purposeful organizations need to invest time and effort into their strategies – not only to maximize the efficacy of their campaigns but also so they do good rather than harm,” Basgil said.
Another challenge is navigating the balance between profit and purpose, said Management Consultant and consultancy founder Adam Rubins:
“I think reasonable profit in the service of human needs is perfectly okay - it’s *pretending* to meet needs in service of profits that’s a problem,” Gallagher said.
How are brands and agencies addressing social concerns?
⚠️WARNING⚠️ Wisdom alert…
“The best mind the gap between saying and doing,” Gallagher said. “And get their act together before communicating ‘success’ - so they look at their management structures, pay, workplace inclusion, etc. as first-order priorities.”
Beyond being better community members, how can ESG and CSR affect a company's bottom line?
Too often, it comes down to the bottom line.
There is increasing evidence of financial success operating closely with ESG and CSR initiatives:
Zeitlin added a valuable example of how companies that fail to operate responsibly in such ways, can ultimately create higher risk for their bottom line:
“Supply chain governance can flag risks with suppliers at any stage in the value chain and allow for proactive reputation management,” she added. “There are plenty of others.”
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