Corporate Social Responsibility in Hard Times

Struggling companies have no choice but to recalibrate their CSR

Do you believe that struggling companies have no choice but to recalibrate their CSR?

And what do you think about companies being "socially responsible" during these difficult competitive times? Is it a necessity or a luxury?

In this enlightened day and age, whether times are good or bad, companies must be socially responsible. That's the reality. However, it is the winning companies that create jobs, pay taxes, and strengthen the economy. Winning companies, in other words, enable social responsibility, not the other way around. And so, right now-as always, companies should be putting profitability first. It's the necessity that makes every other necessity possible.

Now, before you react strongly on this, please understand that Speedy Cause is not suggesting that companies abandon philanthropy and other charitable initiatives until the economy picks up. We are only saying that corporate social responsibility-or CSR, as it has come to be known-needs to adapt to the circumstances. It hasn't become a "luxury," to use your word, but leaders today do need to pin down, for themselves and their employees, CSR's place among the company's priorities.

Here's what we mean. CSR, essentially, comes in three different forms. Companies can contribute to society with cash or products, giving away grants, goods, or their services to schools, homeless shelters, hospitals, and the like. Second, companies can focus their CSR on community involvement, by supporting employees who mentor students or volunteer for a couple of causes. And third, companies can put CSR into their product and service strategies, focusing on green initiatives, for instance, or factoring environmental concerns into their manufacturing processes.

When the tide is high, companies should practice all forms of CSR to some degree, or at least drop a few. And—again—they should. Not only is it the right thing to do but CSR can play a powerful part in recruiting talent, retaining talent, and keeping up morale. But how should companies think about CSR now, with margins narrowing, layoffs rampant, and consumers embracing the "new stinginess"? They should adapt it to their situation.

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