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Corporate Social Responsibility: One Dot Joined


Who can I speak to about Corporate Social Responsibility please? Ok then, Sustainability? Er….Community? Well how about…Sponsorship?

Shall we try Marketing? Aaagh… Can I speak to ANYONE?

Do smart PR tactics make it easy to greenwash or whitewash companies lack of community investment? And if a company website is a source of veracity and integrity then how does the company respond when an enquiry is made of it? With this in mind the Stanley East Company flash-surveyed 25 major businesses in New Zealand who claimed to be savvy with their corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Some websites used swaggering statements with emotive words that included, ‘ethical working, responsibility, commitment and supportive.’ There were bold announcements of the importance of involvement in the community and with such worthy statements we were sure they would be delighted to speak to us.

As more customers and potential employees use company websites to ascertain who they want to trade or work with, corporate social responsibility is now a real issue for many people who want to know that the company they may engage with care about social and environmental issues.

The flash-survey would be a simple matter of picking up the phone to speak to someone on this hugely important subject, seen as many as one of the pillars of all good industry, the triple bottom line; people, planet, profit.

Our plan was simple, after checking out the company website we would phone and ask to speak to whoever managed corporate social responsibility. We always explained who we were and attempted at all times to be helpful, translating the term into as many variables as we could understanding it is called different things to different people.

One major company with a large national presence used all the right words including mention of their world class sustainability programme on their website until a closer look at their CSR policy showed it had not been updated since 2004.

When phoning to talk to them our expectation was high so imagine the surprise to get the response “what’s corporate social responsibility?”

Another company with a significant New Zealand presence based in Australia had us speak to seven different people with not one knowing to whom we should speak with. Their website was chock-a-block of what their commitments were and yet nobody knew who looked after the subject.

The same response sadly became the familiar rather than a one-off experience, some of whom got grumpy with not knowing what we wanted and in one case we had to speak to five people between Sydney and Auckland before finally provided with a voice mail in a marketing office in an unknown city, which after several weeks still not been answered.

At one company we were put through to a man who announced he was ‘sitting in a truck in a field’ and had no idea why we had been given his extension.

A ‘grunt’ was another response we encountered; trying to maintain a conversation was difficult as the grunts continued.

Another global company gave us such a poor response that included a huge exasperated sigh we could only wonder what we ought to do, should we sigh back?

There is no surprise that a call centre or receptionist is not going to use language that is more used in strategy and policy however if there is as much flag waving about what the business does in this sphere then the message is not getting through to their own internal community, the staff. Why not?

Our flash-survey was not a judgement call on how well the business and community activities are proceeding but about how the message on the ground aligns with the message from the top. We are still waiting in some cases to have messages returned.

Maybe one dot joined…still quite a lot to go. So who came out top?

Top Seven:

Sealord, Thales, Rio Tinto, Foodstuffs, Coca Cola, Caltex, Maersk


Sealord: Only slight translation required but uber- friendly with contact details and a lovely gesture to hear that the person ‘would be delighted to hear from us.’
Thales: Stated clearly on its website what it did and their responsibility. We were provided immediately without having to explain what we wanted with the name and contact details of the person who dealt with CSR. No translations required. Hurrah!
Rio Tinto: Perfect response, happy to talk and very clear what they do. Excellent.
Foodstuffs; Lovely friendly response, was informed promptly who the CSR person was and put through.
Coca Cola: Great response, they explained they would find the right person and ask them to call me back. Prompt comeback.
Caltex: Despite busy phone lines, we left a message and rewarded with quick knowledgeable reply.
Maersk: Put through immediately to MD’s EA, provided us with lots of intelligent information. Heartened with obvious knowledge and excellent response.

The remaining companies scored between zero to 8/10. Any company who thinks they may have been surveyed is welcome to contact us and we will happily provide feedback.


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