Alex Blyth is quite right in stating that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is on the boardroom agenda (MW November 7). When speaking at a recent CIMA conference on risk, I witnessed the concern expressed by the finance directors of many of this country’s leading companies about the effect of social and ethical issues on shareholder value.
The key question remains: how to approach CSR? In my view, the most effective way is holistically – within the context of the whole company and recognising the impact that CSR has on a brand’s reputation.
Brands are the expression of the corporate value system, and as such the company’s reputation. They are the way people find meaning behind, or create a face for, major corporations. A brand no longer represents simply the end product or service; rather, it is the culmination of all aspects of the business from the sector the company operates in, to how and with whom it does business and the influence it can have.
Brand issues are moving beyond the remit of marketing and into the boardroom. Companies must address their brand-value strategies and align them with CSR policies, not only to protect their brand value, but also to create differentiation and competitive advantage. It is only by ensuring that corporate brand values are not just words – that they are defensible and actionable and that they guide policy – that corporate reputations in this age of CSR will remain intact.