October 19, 2021

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Corporate Social Responsibility 

By Molly Carr

Corporations across the globe dedicate time and money to corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices such as environmental efforts, philanthropy events, or establishing ethical labor practices. This past year they were called on to live up to those commitments. What have we learned? Corporations have flawed CSR initiatives and brands are out of touch with stakeholders. 

It’s straightforward; corporations that (1) produce high-quality service or products, (2) reward and treat their employees well, (3) engage in social and environmental change, and (4) established a clear mission will have the upper hand over competition.

According to an Aflac survey, 73% of investors say they would be more willing to invest in a company’s products or services if the company demonstrates a commitment to addressing social, economic, and environmental issues. 

In 2019 GlobalWebIndex reported, 68% of consumers in the United States and the United Kingdom would or might stop using a brand because of poor or misleading CSR, and 43% of 16-24 year-olds are willing to pay a premium for brands that have a positive impact on society and the environment.  

CSR has become essential to successful corporations. Consumers, employees, and investors look for it. Let’s take a look at the best and worst of CSR practices this past year:

The Good 

A Message from Guinness: We Will Toast Again

The service industry took a hard hit globally this past year due to the pandemic. In the campaign “We Will Toast Again,” Guinness pledges to help organizations that have been affected by the pandemic and remind us to stay safe and “toast” virtually. During a time when the world is struggling, brands often face hardships promoting products without seeming tone-deaf. Guinness adapted their campaign making it relatable, in touch with current social circumstances, and establishing a clear message. The ad was ethical, timely, and allowed them promoted their brand all in one. The hashtag #WeWillToastAgain continues to be used across social media platforms. That’s a good CSR plan!  

The Bad

Trustmark

This past year Trustmark produced an ad featuring a man gaining advancing through his career. Each scene in the commercial had a woman, his wife bringing him coffee or food. The commercial ended with the man retired on a yacht with his wife still serving him food. At face value, they didn’t state that men should be at work while women stay at home but that is how the commercial was perceived. Trustmark did not think before they produced this, they were out of touch with social standards and their target audience as many women are business owners and executives. Companies need feedback and teams of diverse backgrounds to assure they are producing inclusive advertising. The mistakes in the ad are similar to the Pepsi ad staring Kendall Jenner.

The Ugly

McDonald’s #StaySafebyStayingApart

McDonald’s Brazil received backlash after redesigning its logo to separate the golden arches promoting social distancing. The new logo appeared on the brands’ TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. It didn’t take long for social media to call McDonald’s out, Bernie Sanders tweeted “give your workers paid sick leave.”

Soon after the separated arches were removed from all social media accounts. McDonalds message was seen as tone-deaf. It focused on company image but not what they are going to do to help. They paid no attention to societal shifts or social responsibility. Not only did the campaign get backlash, but they also received backlash on employee treatment, and how the business it ran at large. 

Take a look at this link to avoid “bad” and “ugly” CSR.

4 thoughts on “The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Corporate Social Responsibility 

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I too, am more likely, to spend my money with a brand that has good CSR efforts. Or, stop buying from one with bad CSR efforts. For instance, I’ve completely stopped ordering from Amazon due to the fact that they treat their workers poorly.

  2. Hey Molly,
    I really enjoyed this post on CSR initiatives and that you included examples of good, bad and really bad CSR initiatives. I feel like in this day in age where social justice issues, environmental issues, etc. are so prevalent, it is rare for a company to be ignorant in what they post. The Trustmark ad example you talked about surprised me because I feel like there is so much conversation around the internet today talking about dismantling gender norms.

  3. Loved this post! CSR is extremely important in today’s market, and a big deciding factor of the brands I choose to support. I think it’s important to distinguish the brands who do performative CSR for image and those who are genuinely trying to improve community.

  4. This was super interesting to read! Good CSR efforts are extremely important, and play a significant role in connecting with stakeholders. When I come across a brand or company that has good CSR efforts, I am more inclined to do business with them.

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