Forbes has published two articles recently that reference CSR; interestingly, both are primarily about citizens' trust in corporations (or lack thereof). One, published last week, focuses on the erosion of goodwill towards corporations in the wake of the recession. It reports on a survey that said one in three respondents believes corporations are primarily responsible for the recession (46% primarily blame governments), and on another study that found that people are increasingly likely to say that companies make too much profit (59% of respondents) and too few big companies have too much power (70%). The article argues that, in this environment, CSR is important. The other, published this week, centers on Asia; it says that “trust in business wavers” and encourages “private sector diplomacy” - that is, public/private partnerships that address “the region’s most pressing problems”.
I've been thinking a lot recently about the economy and it's impact on CSR. Of course, many of us are concerned that, as companies seek to eliminate spending wherever possible, they'll cut the resources that sustain their CSR programs. On the other hand, on this blog, we've discussed some reasons that this in fact might not happen: At the Conference Board's recent conference on corporate citizenship, various panelists suggested that CSR should increase now because there's an increased need for it, or that cutting back on CSR damages trust. Reimagining CSR reader Elisabeth commented on a previous post that CSR initiatives can be leveraged "to sustain and even build brand equity in challenging times", while the Ethical Corporation Blog argues, "There is opportunity to gain trust.... Showing you can treat your customers, suppliers and business partners fairly, even when times are right, may help you build that bank account of goodwill, useful when you really need it. "
By the logic of the Forbes articles, I come to the following rationale (partially overlapping with those offered by Elisabeth and the Ethical Corporation blog) for redoubling CSR efforts in light of the economy: The recession - or, more specifically, major corporations' perceived role in sparking the recession - has led to an erosion of trust in companies; engaging in CSR, on the other hand, can help to restore that trust.
If the issue of trust links the recession and corporate citizenship, should we in fact expect to see an increase in CSR efforts?