Ages ago I bookmarked an article on the Ibero-American CSR Blog about how the media engage with CSR.
The guts of the article come from the book La Responsabilidad Social en América Latina (Social Responsibility in Latin America) by Mercedes Korin, founder of the Argentinian firm Mapeo de Promotores de RSE.
In the book Mercedes highlights how the media tend to be uncritical in their coverage of CSR, celebrating practices which are responsible and sustainable and tending to ignore those which are irresponsible and unsustainable.
There’s a very close relationship between PR and the media and while all journalists will tell you they report fact fairly and without bias, the reality is that much of the business news agenda is driven by companies seeking to portray themselves in the best possible light.
So yes the media probably should be more critical of business activities, but a business should also be more self critical … more aware of how its policies and procedures affect its staff and stakeholders and how analytical it is being of its own behaviour.
In order to encourage this kind of analysis within the the media, Mercedes suggests four areas which should be addressed and they form the basis for the four angles I mention below.
What are the policies which surround your media activities, from website content through to white papers and press releases? Do they seek to promote only the company’s interests or is there an awareness of the company’s role at the heart of a network of stakeholders? Items which may be of critical importance include citizen participation, protection of the vulnerable and the promotion of learning.
Are the business’ control mechanisms up to supporting such editorial policies? For example, are the company’s data collection practices robust enough to ensure information cannot be massaged for a particular purpose, or how is the quality of public stakeholder engagement (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) ensured?
Ownership and funding of a business should be transparent and is already regulated. However there’s no reason companies can’t go further as part of their CSR activies. It may be overkill to suggest that all the interests a business has should be listed in a CSR report, but certainly all should be available for public scrutiny and commentary upon the changes in these ought to be part of the business’ overall responsible stakeholder engagement strategy.
Possibly one of the most forgotten about aspects of CSR although it too is generally covered by regulation. However there are many aspects of peoples’ working conditions which are important to a business’ responsibility, from training provided to breaks allowed. Once again, availability of these to stakeholders should be open and transparent and with most companies adopting websites there is an easy and cheap platform on which they can do so .
This is by now means meant to be an exhaustive list but is just a flavour of some of the different approached a company can take to its CSR communication. Several have their roots at least partially in transparency and I am always amazed at how opaque businesses can be even with regulators and investors.
Ultimately businesses be self-interested in order to be competitive, but this should not mean that their CSR communication should be self-centred. There is still plenty of scope for companies to be fully stakeholder aware and to demonstrate they take their responsibility transparently.
Picture Credit: Boy with yellow magnifying glass / Ian Barbour / CC BY SA / tweaked Chris Milton.
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