Business prof says communicating global “corporate social responsibility” is good for the bottom line

Business Professor Karen Becker-Olsen has established a link between sales and international activism.

A recent published study co-authored by Becker-Olsen demonstrates that consumers associate more prestige with brands they consider to be “global,” and a firm’s communication of a global corporate social responsibility (CSR) project tends to improve a consumer’s perception of a brand’s “globalness.” Consumers will reward companies that successfully communicate their programs to help the global community.

Her research was presented in The Journal of International Marketing, the American Marketing Association’s foremost resource on today’s international marketing environment. In the article, “A Cross-Cultural Examination of Corporate Social Responsibility Marketing Communications in Mexico and the United States: Strategies for Global Brands,” the authors show that, despite cultural differences, consumers worldwide expect firms to participate in good citizenship on a global scale.

In light of the many natural disasters that have recently devastated the global community, Becker-Olsen said that this study highlights the need for firms to step up and be part of the response.

“Firms, and their customers and investors, need to see that they have a unique position that allows them to mobilize resources quickly and efficiently—and in the case of disasters, perhaps more so than governments or non-governmental institutions,” she said.

Karen Becker-Olsen. (c) School of Business website

The study was inspired by Becker-Olsen’s work with the Finnish company Nokia six years ago. In early discussions, managers at Nokia suggested they were doing lots of great things, but did not “talk” about those things, she recalled.

“Culturally, Scandinavian companies and customers do not really talk about CSR—very different from the United States,” said Becker-Olsen. “I suggested they think about how to maximize their CSR impact in other regions and that CSR might be able to eventually help build their brand.”

According to Becker-Olsen, CSR programs should be viewed by companies and communities alike as “win-win scenarios.” She said that she  advocated for strong strategic CSR programs because of the community benefits that tend to follow.

“CSR not only builds brands and strengthens firms by allowing them to become part of a given community, but it also strengthens the community. From an ideal perspective, CSR is a mechanism that provides a win-win scenario. Companies win via increased loyalty from consumers, and communities win from increased support in terms of social service funding, reduced environmental impact, stronger safety records, and fair labor practices,” she said.

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