It's somewhat ironic that the reputation of Corporate Social Responsibility - that 'corporate conscience' which so many organisations use to improve their own public standing - so often hangs in the balance.
Derided by some as a 'smokescreen' or 'fig leaf' hiding a multitude of sins, the importance and value of CSR is forever being eroded by global organisations which shamelessly - and transparently - utilise it to their own advantage.
But hidden amongst the posturing, the vanity, and the boasting are organisations that truly are making a positive difference to the world around them. And sadly, it's all too often the ones getting on with their CSR initiatives and actually making them happen - rather than showing off about them - that are overlooked.
I recently attended a talk by FIFA at the Worldwide Partners 75th anniversary World Meeting 'Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future'. I braced myself in advance for a potent cocktail of PR spin and careful tiptoeing around the negative flack the brand has received in recent years. But I was utterly taken aback by their presentation, and FIFA's general honesty about tackling the challenges they face.
Above all, this rare insight behind the scenes at FIFA turned into a master class in how businesses can make a positive impact on the world around them.
As a global brand FIFA is recognising its obligations towards society, making a commitment to tackling social issues such as health and education by investing over 1% of its revenues in CSR programmes an investment that will increase over time.
I was pleasantly surprised having no idea how much good the brand is doing and was particularly struck by a school attendance programme running in Colombia that offers an afternoon of football if children attend morning lessons which has already increased attendance.
But where FIFA and so many other brands fall short is making themselves heard in this arena. Research - by bodies such as IBM - proves that CSR is good for brands. If a product is seen as doing good, it is more likely to be put in shopping baskets by consumers. And when all is said and done, winning consumer trust and driving sales is a common goal no matter what part of the pitch you are playing on.
CSR is good for brands, but only if we, the consumers, know about it. Brands like FIFA, which are genuinely doing great things for society, need to shout louder about the good they do. Yes, no one wants to be seen as a boaster. But no one wants to be overlooked or underestimated either.
The water has been muddied by the self-interested organisations out there. But the only way to ensure CSR programmes continue to gain the investment they need to do good, is to take CSR seriously and celebrate the brands that really are building a better future.
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