Corporate Social Responsibility
In the 1980s, a new form of marketing was born: Cause-Related Marketing (CRM), a hybrid of product advertising and corporate public relations. CRM aims to link corporate identities with nonprofit organizations and good causes. As a tax-deductible expense for business, this form of brand leveraging seeks to connect with the consuming public beyond the traditional point of purchase and to form long-lasting and emotional ties with consumers. However, what might seem like a fair exchange between corporations in search of goodwill and non-profits in search of funds also raises a range of troubling social, political and ethical questions.
CRM is, first and foremost, a market-driven system. Therefore, a non-profit organization's chance of obtaining CRM funding hinges on its ability to complement sales messages. However, it is often the case that vital social issues are only -- or are best -- addressed by "edgy" groups or by using controversial tactics.
A report by Consumers International, a global federation of consumer organisations, examined the corporate social responsibility policies of 20 major drug companies to test what information they disclose about sponsoring patient groups, funding disease awareness campaigns and offering hospitality to medical experts.
A new study on corporate social responsibility (CSR) from Scotland's St. Andrews University concludes that corporate CSR programs "are so threadbare and misleading that they are preventing progress towards a sustainable future," reports the Sunday Herald.
When does an independent labor advocacy group's work turn into corporate PR? The Connecticut-based Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA) finds itself right on the line. CREA recently announced partial results of a study of Florida tomato suppliers, crediting one McDonald's supplier with exceeding industry best practices, including pay sometimes higher than $18 an hour.
The deal already looks suspiciously sweetened. On May 3, 2006, U.S. beverage firms announced an agreement with the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association gradually to pull most sweetened soft drinks from U.S. schools.
Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay has little time for companies that try to use corporate social responsibility as a PR and marketing tool. "Nothing diminishes virtue like trying to draw other people’s attention to it. You’re a good corporate citizen? Get on with it, then, don’t brag about it," he said in a speech launching a fundraising campaign for a non-profit disability group.