CSR vs CSA: The Context of Giving Back
Our world keeps becoming a place where users create the best content about brands, where people focus on feelings, and where analytics with strategy are the cornerstones for growth. From the place of Disruptive Marketing (insert Redwatch October) – where consumers seek to engage with brands that are setting new standards, going beyond the expected, and pushing boundaries – comes a more daring, public-centric phenomenon called Corporate Social Advocacy (CSA).
But we can’t talk about CSA without highlighting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as we know it.
Rawlins (2005) says “CSR is doing well by doing good”. CSR is the idea that a company should play a voluntary, positive role in the community and consider the environmental and socio-economic impact of business decisions. This is beneficial because the more socially responsible a business is, the more support it gets from its customers and community. Customers can live through a company’s goodwill because they feel as though they are doing their part for the society. CSR is non-controversial, mutually beneficial, and profitable. However, simplifying CSR to just a portfolio of good work that a company undertakes for their benefit is to reduce its importance to nothing but a fresh coat of paint over a nice wall.
CSR is more than that, but CSA is even bigger!
Corporate Social Advocacy was coined and defined by Dodd & Supa (2014) as when an organization engages in controversial, social, or political issues that often lack direct relevance to the company. Rosenthal (2019) proceeds to simplify that definition to mean a company using its audience, social media platforms, and business strategy to support or oppose a cause, policy, or other societal issues.
In short, Corporate Social Advocacy is risky. It involves an organization lending its voice to a controversial movement that is often different from the products or services it provides. CSA has the potential to alienate some stakeholders to stand for the public’s interest. If the question on your mind is ‘why risk it?’, then you’re thinking is right. There are many reasons why an organization should practice CSA but the overriding one is that consumers want to do business with companies that are mission-driven and dare to step in where others are too afraid to – for their community, for their consumers, for the public.
CSA can take many different shapes, ranging from little initiatives to extensive campaigns. Here are a few instances of effective social advocacy in Nigeria.
- Flutterwave (create hyperlink to https://techpoint.africa/2020/10/20/endsars-brand-engagement) and a coalition of other tech companies created a Fund during a recent protest and shared a public link that allowed other Nigerians to send donations.
- In the same protest, a law firm in Victoria Island, Aelex (create hyperlink to https://techpoint.africa/2020/10/20/endsars-brand-engagement), made some of their lawyers available to bail arrested protesters for free.
These companies advocated for their community during this period and got the attention of major stakeholders in the country. Their actions proved a quote from Janna Cachola that said, “advocacy is empathy, compassion, and community at work.”