Any CSR activity is better than nothing.
I’m astounded by those that sit in ivory towers and proclaim that superficial CSR is abhorrent and should be cast asunder. We should always prefer a business to have righteous intentions but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. Some people just don’t know any better. Does that make them the dark lords of capitalism?
For CSR, PR can be the best of times and it can be the worst of times, usually dependant on which side of the equation leads the way but for many it can be the first foray into the world of wider responsibility. For many businesses a superficial approach to CSR can be like a first date; it might be a bit of fun and worth the investment on the night but the real results lie in the more enlightened longer term commitment. Organisations do not climb the developmental ladder in one large step. CSR probably more than any other management concept takes time to be culturally understood, to mature and for most needs to be imperceptibly incremental.
Not one single company on this planet has an ideal approach to responsibility so let’s agree that everybody is at varying stages of imperfection. A business attempting to constantly balance perpetually changing economic, environmental and social issues is acting within a perfectly unstable scenario.
The devil’s greenwasher’s are already scaring many away from trumpeting their own environmental successes for fear of reprisals. Honesty and transparency has never been such a valued commodity. If you’ve achieved a genuinely great success tell people! Somebody will always complain, its human nature (especially in the UK) that doesn’t mean the majority of the audience won’t be impressed, grateful or remember you, especially if your intentions are honourable.
There are a few organisations out there that do manipulate the agenda in Machiavellian type orchestrations and some are easier to identify than others. Oil companies don’t give away $15.5 million unless they don’t have to, ask Shell about Nigeria.
Maybe it’s me alone that sees so much naive CSR throughout the markets and even more so at the smaller end of the business scale, but within that naivety there are literally millions of truly inspiring yet basic initiatives that are tangibly helping those outside of businesses’ main radar. Those who wilfully, knowingly or continually exploit stakeholders or resources deserve any adverse attention they get (anybody fancy a cigarette?).
If you wanted every business that is using CSR superficially to stop, especially naive less aware small and medium sized businesses, you’re going to destroy a substantial amount of benefit being delivered where it’s needed most AND stifle a breeding ground for more meaningful activity down the line. Bad use of CSR can be a great learning experience akin to good customer care dealing with a complaint. It’s up to those who know better to guide those who don’t.
I don’t really care what a businesses’ motives are as long as they are doing something. It’s easier to change these people than those who pig-headedly bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.