Today, I spoke with Kellie A. McElhaney, who is a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and one of the main brains behind the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative that is spreading all over the world. When it comes to employer branding, successful corporations are able to bridge their brand and that of a noble cause together. Kellie talks about what CSR is, why most company’s fail to do a good job with CSR, how company’s and their employee can get involved today and the impact all of this has on Gen-Y.
How do you define corporate social responsibility?
I define CSR as a business strategy linked to two things: 1) a company’s core business objectives and 2) a companies’ core competencies, designed to both provide positive financial return to the company, as well as positive social/ environmental return to society.
Why do most companies fail to pay attention to social responsibility and what are the drawbacks when they don’t incorporate it into their corporate strategy?
Companies fail to engage in CSR because they do not see the inherent business value in CSR as part of their overall corporate strategy (reputation enhancement, operational cost savings, talent attraction/ retention, brand differentiation, access to new markets, customer loyalty, license to operate in new countries/ communities. When CSR is not integrated in to or linked with corporate strategy, it is one of the first things to get cut when profits are down or new leadership comes on board. It is viewed as extraneous to the business.
What are your 7 Principles of Branding & CSR?
- Know thyself (link to your business objectives and competencies.
- Get a good fit (select an issue/ cause for which you own part of the solution)
- Be consistent (one deep cause throughout the company over a long period of time)
- Simplify (simple easy messaging, like Pedigree’s Help Us Help Dogs)
- Work from the Inside Out (engage employees throughout the company)
- Know Your Customer (some segments are much more ready for this, ie Millennials, Women, LOHAS)
- Tell Your Story (stories trump facts 10 times out of 10)
What are your top 3 tips for branding your company as great place to work?
- Engage employees in developing your CSR strategy, have CSR Councils, Committees, subgroups, etc.
- Tell one good story of one example of how your employees have harnassed the power of your business to make the world a better place.
- Let your employees act as brand ambassadors and tell why you are a great place to work.
What impact does CSR have on millennials?
- 79% want to work for a company heavily engaged in CSR
- 56% will refuse to work for a company who is not at all committed to and engaged in CSR.
- Over 80% will switch brands if no CSR.
But more importantly, Millennials will blog, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook about YOUR company and why you are or are not engaged in CSR- they spread their views on CSR virally. They can make or break youyr brand in this space.
Kellie A. McElhaney is the John C. Whitehead Adjunct Professor and the Founding Director of the Center for Responsible Business at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. She’s also the author of Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand. In 2003, she launched the center, which has helped place corporate responsibility squarely as one of the core competencies and competitive advantages of the Haas School. McElhaney teaches courses on Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility and was named a “Faculty Pioneer” by the Aspen Institute in 2005. She consults to several Global 1000 companies in developing integrated CSR strategy, bridging her academic focus with the practitioner world.