Why are people leery of CSR? - SmartBrief

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Why are people leery of CSR?

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SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Sustainability — tracks feedback from more than 17,000 CSR leaders. We run the poll question each Wednesday in our e-newsletter. This week’s analysis is provided by Juan Villamayor, a corporate social responsibility consultant and business sustainability expert from Barcelona, Spain.

Last week we asked: Many people are still skeptical about corporate social responsibility and business sustainability. Why do you think this is?

  • The public sees CSR as a greenwashing tool, just used to improve a company’s
    image, 37.33%
  • CSR has not been put into financial terms. It’s difficult to see its benefits,
  • The benefits from a CSR and sustainability strategy are visible in the
    long run, and people are usually short-term oriented, 20%
  • The terms are too vague. CSR professionals have not been able to explain
    them properly to the common people, 16%
  • Most people think that companies should just do business and nothing else,

The results from the poll reflect one mistake from the past and two challenges for the future. More than one third of poll respondents think that the reason people feel skeptical about corporate social responsibility is that many companies have used social and green causes as a cover for unsustainable activities and to improve their image (greenwashing). However, with the rise of ethical consumerism, customers are learning to discern the good from the bad ones and do not fall for false promises anymore. On the other hand, more than 40% of the respondents refer to two big challenges to the future of CSR: Explain CSR in terms that everyone can understand, and express the benefits of CSR in terms of its financial value. It’s a good sign that only 1% think that companies should only concentrate on creating value for themselves. The view that companies have a responsibility beyond making money for their
shareholders seems to be widely accepted.