Monday, February 23, 2015

Corporate Philanthropy vs. Corporate Social Responsibility

Alright, so here's the deal: an Omani newspaper published a controversial article today accusing big corporations and companies in Oman of “misusing” their CSR initiatives for publicity and commercial purposes.

So I thought I would try and put things in perspective. First of all, let’s talk about the difference between corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Let’s all imagine that there’s this huge pie placed in front of you and let’s call this pie CSR. Take a slice of the pie and call it corporate philanthropy. Giving back to the community in the form of financial donations or non-cash contributions such as time, expertise and tangible stuff is what makes that small slice. Everything else in addition to philanthropy fall under CSR. In practice, corporate social responsibility deals with the greater good of the world at large: issues that affect the environment, consumers, human rights, energy sustainability and many other topics.

Now back to the main point the article is talking about. Is it considered a horrible thing for corporates to actually walk around and show off their donations and contribution to the community? Well this is debatable. Let’s consider the following points:
  1.  Your company/corporation might be a listed company in the stocks market. In this case, you will have hundreds (if not thousands) of shareholders and a board of directors representing these shareholders who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing to the community.
  2.  You want to show your customers and potential customers that you are a responsible company. Publishing news about your contribution to the community within reason shouldn’t harm your reputation or give people the impression that you’re “overdoing” it.

There’s no easy fix for publicizing any news about CSR and philanthropy activities to be specific. It’s a case by case decision that the company has to make. Many factors have to be considered: Is it important? Is the other party receiving the donations/support even considered or consulted before publishing the news? Is it so significant and news worthy that people are REALLY keen to know about?

We sure don’t want to read about a OR 100 donation that takes half of a front page on a Sunday morning!