Corporate Eye

3 Ways to Structure Brand CSR in Your Company

CSR wind farmCorporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming a larger focus for corporations every day, but actually integrating CSR into your brand strategy (i.e., brand CSR) is something that more companies still need to do. While small companies typically have one person who leads the CSR effort and is responsible for everything CSR-related for the entire organization, larger corporations have a lot more people to consider. The list of stakeholders for a major corporation is very long, and keeping everyone happy is challenging.

Most companies recognize the importance of CSR and pursue initiatives to be perceived as more socially responsible, However, those initiatives come up short because they’re not fully integrated with the brand. Once you take the time to merge brand and CSR, the benefits to your brand image will increase significantly.

Following are three ways that most large companies structure resources to support brand CSR. Evaluate your company, your brand, and your resources to determine which structure will work best for your company. Choosing the wrong structure will yield limited results for your brand and company.

1. Centralized Brand CSR

Centralized brand CSR is a functional structure where CSR responsibilities are performed by a specific team within the corporate marketing department. The CSR team is tasked with developing the entire company’s CSR strategy, developing campaigns to support the strategy, monitoring results, and retooling as needed. These CSR intiatives all tie back to the brand promise, position, and image, and the centralized CSR team instructs other functional departments about requirements and timelines.

2. Decentralized Brand CSR

Decentralized brand CSR is a matrix structure where CSR responsibilities are performed by specific individuals within each brand family (e.g., the brand manager). The CSR brand team members from each brand family report to their department leader as well as to a common CSR executive. They collaborate closely to identify cross-department CSR opportunities, achieve synergies, and drive maximum results. Most importantly, they collaborate to ensure the brand is represented consistently across all CSR initiatives.

3. Integrated Brand CSR

Fully-integrated brand CSR is a flat structure where CSR responsibilities are part of every employee’s job description. This structure is most common in companies that exist for a CSR-related purpose. For example, a company that produces sustainable building materials or organic food should have a fully-integrated brand CSR structure because CSR is an integral part of the company’s mission, vision, and core values. These companies will often have a leader or small team in charge of managing and monitoring CSR activities, but the daily brand CSR focus is pushed down to the lowest possible level so each employee is empowered to make decisions that support the company’s core values and CSR focus.

Which structure does your company use? Which structure do you prefer? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Image: Jesper Baerentzen

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.