Corporate social responsibility can play a large role in building a company’s positive reputation. However, in order to create this positive reputation, a company has to ensure that it is not only doing virtuous deeds, but that it is communicating these actions to the public so that they don’t go unnoticed.
Each year, the Reputation Institute (RI), a Boston-based reputation-management consulting firm, gauges the way that people feel about large companies. For its latest survey, RI analyzed responses from 240,000 people in 15 countries. For the most part, this year’s results showed the same companies at the top of the roster, but there were a few important changes.
When tracking social responsibility reputations among companies, RI focuses on consumers’ perception of a company’s governance, treatment of employees and positive effect on society. Google came in first place for the third consecutive year. Microsoft took second place, moving two spots up after being number four last year. The Walt Disney Company was in third place and has held that position since 2014.
Volkswagen dropped the farthest, with its CSR score decreasing by 13.2 points, preventing it from cracking the top 100. This is unsurprising, since it was discovered in September of last year that the company essentially lied about the capabilities of its vehicles by fitting its vehicles with software that kept emissions to permissible levels during testing. The company will have to work hard to put its image back together.
According to Fernando Prado, a Reputation Institution managing partner, CSR ranking is largely about perception. The survey results simply show which firms people believe are socially responsible. To demonstrate this, Prado compares Unilever and BMW. Both companies are leaders when it comes to social responsibility, but BMW placed fourth and earned 73.9 points while Unilever placed 88th. This is because consumers don’t know much about Unilever’s culture of responsibility.
Unilever and a number of other companies are struggling to communicate the good deeds they are doing. It is more difficult for companies to communicate their CSR activity than to promote their products, which they can openly advertise and market to consumers. It can be hard for a company to be transparent about its social good initiatives in a way that doesn’t seem boastful.
Prado says that the best way to communicate CSR is by being transparent, appearing genuine, standing out from the crowd, providing information and being truthful. Companies that exhibit these types of behavior typically make a large positive impact on the way people perceive their CSR.
It’s also important to pick the right medium for this communication. Companies with weak reputations typically have better luck changing the public’s perception of them by communicating through third party channels, such as television, radio, blogs or social media posting. Companies that have stronger reputations can maintain these reputations on their own through their newsletters, websites, advertisements or social media campaigns, either sponsored or direct.
When it comes to building a positive reputation for a company, doing social good isn’t the only step necessary. Make sure you are communicating these philanthropic acts to the public so that more consumers will be drawn to your company.