Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a phrase that gets bandied around a great deal in the business world, as corporations look to give back to their customers and consumers, while supporting the communities in which they operate. However, businesses are becoming more and more selective about which initiatives they put their resources, name and money behind in order to reap the biggest benefits from their investment and to create a sense of authenticity.
Core to this is the creation and communication of effective CSR campaigns that resonate positively with the public, but that also accurately reflect the business’ core values, mission and vision. In short, to effectively reach out to communities, CSR should be more than just a buzzword for business.
An ongoing trend in CSR is businesses working together with governments, civil societies and national and international bodies to make a palpable difference beyond any direct corporate responsibilities. This can be anything from supporting local communities on a small scale, to large, international campaigns – or a combination of both.
While businesses understandably want to project a positive public image, investing in charitable initiatives without thoroughly considering what their business can add to the equation is likely to be perceived as little more than an exercise in necessity, rather than a genuine corporate desire to do good. Indeed, there are no quick-fixes in CSR, instead, it should leave a longstanding legacy - opening up and paving the way for meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations to promote positive change.
One highly effective method of driving a CSR campaign that really inspires and produces tangible results is through corporate sponsorship of an activity, team or event that resonates with the company in question.
Putting it into practice: Team SCA in the 2014-5 Volvo Ocean Race
A key aspect of CSR is identifying and understanding a problem, or problems, and then providing innovative, useful and longstanding solutions. This is helped when a company can draw on its area of
expertise in order to provide authentic, useful advice and resources.
That is why SCA, a leading global hygiene and forest products company, participated in the 2014-5 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) through its sponsorship of Team SCA, the first-all female team to compete in the world’s toughest ocean race in more than a decade. SCA, which has integrated CSR initiatives into its core business model, has a deep knowledge of hygiene, which most of its efforts are naturally related to.
The sponsorship served as a unique global platform to raise awareness of key women’s hygiene issues, especially menstrual hygiene, while introducing potential customers to its leading stable of personal hygiene brands. With women purchasing up to 80% of SCA’s retail products globally, SCA wanted to implement a CSR campaign that would be authentic to this key audience.
Because menstruation is still treated as a taboo in many cultures and societies, millions of women and girls in developing countries are still left to manage their menstrual cycle with little more than cloth, paper or clay, which can lead to urinary and reproductive infections, as well as force them to miss work or school. When women’s sanitary needs are not met, local and national economies can suffer due to repeated absences from school and work.
So, to invest in the future, improve hygiene levels and to help enable women to participate fully in society, SCA utilised its Team SCA sponsorship to support women’s empowerment on a mass scale whilst using education as a key way to drive positive change.
Education is a key part of any CSR initiative. In SCA’s case, education forms the backbone of meaningful programmes that promote wellbeing and enable people to live healthier and more sustainable lives. That is why the company chose to couple its VOR sponsorship with educating upwards of 500,000 visitors to the SCA pavilion at stopover locations along the race route, which included menstrual hygiene outreach initiatives in China and townships in South Africa.
The driving force behind this was an innovative collaboration with local NGOs and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) which saw the launch of awareness workshops, including menstrual hygiene training, to help breakdown women’s hygiene taboos.
Finally, CSR sponsorship initiatives can be an excellent method of boosting employee pride, engagement and that ‘feel good’ factor in
a business, as well as strengthening customer loyalty. Working in a job where you can make a real difference is attractive to many employees, so internal communication of a CSR initiative is crucial. The VOR provided a campaign which united the workforce around one hugely inspiring feat.
The implementation of a carefully considered CSR campaign is something that can enhance relationships with key groups, such as customers, suppliers and networks, attract, retain and maintain an effective workforce, generate innovation and positive publicity, differentiating an organisation from its competitors while making a positive impact on the world around us.