Timothy Coombs together with his partner, Sherry Holladay, wrote a special book on the communication aspects of implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR), entitled Managing Corporate Social Responsibility – A Communication Approach, which was published in 2012.
According to Coombs & Holladay, often communication about a company’s CSR is hampered by the wrong assumption that CSR communication is merely conveying information about the company’s CSR activities to its stakeholders. In fact, communicating CSR is a challenging process because it requires a good understanding of who are the stakeholders, what information they need, and which communication channels are the most effective for its delivery.
In Indonesia, we often see companies posting CSR activity advertorials, complete with large photographs. Thus, it is difficult to distinguish it from corporate promotional activities. We may have heard about a CSR promotional communication dilemma. A negative view that arises as a result of reporting on CSR activities too emphasizes the promotional aspects of the company. As a result, advertorials actually create negative perceptions.
Effective CSR communication is the delivery of complete and transparent information about the company’s CSR activities without concluding a promotional impression. Fostering credibility in the CSR field is a long-term investment. It must be done consistently and can only be achieved with transparency and openness.
To make it easier for us to judge whether there is transparency in CSR reporting, we can use the following questions as a guide:
- How is stakeholder engagement carried out in carrying out CSR activities?
- What are the objectives of the company’s CSR activities?
- How is data collected for reporting on CSR activities?
- Which stakeholders have been consulted in the data collection process?
- What is the reaction of the stakeholders to the data on the company’s CSR?
The existence of a third-party endorsement or statement of support from a third party is needed to complement and strengthen the company’s messages about CSR activities carried out. Of course, this third party must have credibility, have no commercial interest and have no dependency relationship with the company it supports.
For example, Coombs & Holladay in their book mentioned the praise given by the NGO GreenPeace to Apple. The American technology company removed the use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which is considered to be environmentally polluting from its computer cables.
Furthermore, Coombs & Halladay stated about ISO 26000 and the Sustainability Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as the basis for reporting the company’s CSR activities. As we discussed in PR INDONESIA magazine in September 2018, GRI Standards, which has the most up-to-date reporting framework, are currently, de facto, an international standard for Sustainability Reporting or CSR Reporting which indeed demands the principle of transparency in its reporting. Ideally, all corporate communication activities regarding CSR are based on the same principles as outlined above.
Both ISO 26000 and GRI emphasize the importance of stakeholder engagement in CSR implementation. Therefore, it is necessary to have a complete understanding of the concept of stakeholder engagement in order to carry out CSR activities well on the basis of norms that have become international agreements.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 47th Edition, issued on February 2019, page 55.
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