Corporate Social Responsibility…Why the Cynicism?

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been the most fashionable term in Marketing for a few years. Everyone’s in on it, from company’s helping to enrich the lives of the less fortunate to the firms who are going green by switching to energy saving bulbs.

Is it because these businesses feel that they have something to give back to society or is it because they want to distract our attention from some of the things they are doing, maybe for some organisations it’s a tool to increase sales?

Is the Mobilink PCO scheme really about getting people into self employment or more coverage and sales for Mobilink products? Is their “Hunt for Heroes” giving the opportunity to children who may never have had the chance to play cricket or increasing brand awareness?

We know the prime, and it can be argued the only, objective of any company is to make money for its shareholders, which is why many people seem to be distrustful of such initiatives.

When it comes to CSR, school boy errors such as advertising your good deeds simply adds to the cynicism.

However despite all the scepticism we must remember such gestures from companies do help communities. Such as Mobilink’s RS20 million donation to The Citizen Foundation to help build homes in Chamman Kotli after the 2005 earthquake.

So the public will always veiw CSR initiatives as evil, right? Well not necessarily let’s take a look at the above Mobilink initiatives again. Now imagine if Zouhair Khaliq, the CEO of Mobilink, told us about how important it was to have small businesses and entrepreneurs for the economy and announced the Mobilink PCO scheme? That, at least for me, softens the cynicism. It moves away from being a marketing gimmick and becomes the ethos of the organisation, the vision of a leader. Sort of like when Richard Branson tells me he started Virgin Airlines to fight the big bad wolf that British Airways is and I don’t even think about how rich he’s made himself.

A person being ethical and responsible is far more acceptable to our realities than an intangible brand doing the same. But having a person representing your brand has its own problems and brings increased pressure on their day job.

Asif is a Marketing Manager in the UK. His expertise and interests lie in Strategic Marketing, Marketing Communications, PR, Private and Public Sector Marketing, Online and Social Media Marketing. You can visit his website at

  • Fahad Ansari

    I dont think managers should expect any returns from their CSR activity. Starbucks has lost over 40% of its share value in the last quarter despite a small but hard hitting CSR program geared towards labor laws and responsible use of energy

  • Babar Javed

    It’s time to get creative with CSR.

    All banks adopting Micro Financing and free business consultation/solutions for aspiring entrepreneurs.

    Nike could actually make an effort to provide at least up to secondary education for its outsourced laborers.

    Fast Food Chains should switch to healthy options, offer lighter options, charge less for water and switch to Olive Oil.

    Pharma Companies like GSK, Pfizer and Abbott should give away a portion of their life saving drugs to regions/nations that are in desperate need for them – whether having been struck by a natural disaster (in our case the tirade of car bombs) and due to weak purchasing power.

    I’m sick of reading CSR reports with every firm claiming to donate hordes of petty cash to NGO’s. When will they learn?