Purchasing CSR

This week I have to deceive those of you who were looking forward to other businesses´ CSR strategies. But, I do have an excuse for that, I found something a lot more interesting than that (at least I think so), which is one particular question posed by Philip H. Mirvis: Can you buy CSR?

First I thought how could you possibly buy CSR? Isn´t it intangible, only a concept – not more than that? But then it all made sense. Just as Starbucks (which I have presented in last weeks´ blogpost), some businesses are the embodiment of CSR and made it part of their profitability. David Vogel, the author of “The market for virtue”, names some examples, as for instance Timberland, Starbucks, Hewlett Packard, or Ben and Jerry´s. And who needs CSR badly? Big companies do, companies with high brand visibility that are susceptible to become the target of activists and NGOs. 

Voilà, ladies and gentlemen – we proudly present: the CSR market, where big fish acquire smaller ones that perform well with regards to CSR to enhance their portfolio. Two big fish on this market and are also great examples to illustrate this behavior of large corporations:

Didn´t know that, right? At least I did not up until recently. So on the one hand we have the buyer, a company that is forced to (at least appear to be) socially responsible due to its brand visibility – so basically they are forced to do so. On the other hand, we have the “small fish” (or rather smaller than the huge company that buys them) – those who have linked CSR with profitability and created a successful business model.

Without writing too much on this aspect and thus causing an inflation of words I will pose a few final questions for you guys to think about: Should companies make CSR efforts simply because they are expected to so? Isn´t profitability more important in first place (no profit = no business)? Does it make sense to force companies to do good? All these are questions surrounding CSR that everybody should be aware of when talking about Corporate Social Responsibility.