Common mistakes

Corporate social responsibility still isn't normal or widely practiced in New Zealand, as it is in many parts of the world. As more and more New Zealand companies take up the challenge of developing their CSR strategies, these common hiccups are likely to trip some up.

CSR falls apart when: 

  • Philanthropy is mistaken for corporate social responsibility. They both have a place, but good CSR gets communicated and involves employees in the decision making, whereas philanthropy is typically based on the personal values of a company's leaders, and may not be communicated clearly. 
  • It's assumed your staff know what good you do, and that they believe that's enough for the company. If employees don't feel the spirit and power of your CSR (maybe because it isn't communicated/shared with them), then it fails to be effective for staff engagement. Your team need to be able to explain what good the company is doing in their own words. 
  • Decision makers are hypocritical - communicating your support for an environmental project while using plastic irresponsibly is something a company will be caught out on.
  • Businesses are too proud with your PR - if this is meant to be business as usual, communicate your efforts, but don't let the fuss outweigh the contributions.
  • The responsibility is passed on - offering your customers a chance to donate to a charity at the cash register isn't CSR - it's manipulative marketing. Involve your customers by letting them know if they support you, you support what they care about, but don't pass the buck on to their buying decision.
  • There's small scale, but big hype. Make sure the scale of your efforts match up to the scale of your promotions. Donating a few goods, or taking two small products off the shelf and claiming it as your major initiative for the month starts to smell like greenwashing. 
  • The smaller efforts of others are criticised, instead of asking - could we do more? Or, what comes next for us?