CSR claims fall on deaf ears

So yet another company is embarking on a corporate social responsibility programme, but this time its the housewives’ favourite, Marks & Spencer that has jumped on the CSR bandwagon (MW last week).

Programmes like Marks & Start can only work if there is real commitment to the cause, as opposed to a public relations exercise – which this once again appears to be.

Brands such as The Body Shop and Fairtrade base their entire proposition and market their product offering on the premise that they work to benefit the communities from which they buy or source their goods. They pioneer campaigns and lobby for change. Not so M&S. It is not trying to make a political statement – it is, however, trying to generate more profits.

Add-on schemes such as Marks & Start or Walkers’ Books for Schools, only serve to belittle a brand in the eyes of consumers. People are cynical and are unlikely to be duped into believing that charity, rather than profit, is the chief motivator behind these crass attempts at caring and sharing.

While companies might be convinced that CSR initiatives will endear customers to their brands, such attempts at a “friendly face” backfire, as highlighted in the article. Brands should consider the consequences of their very real actions before they announce their intended ones.

Mark Wiley



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