Any Takers?

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My view on CSR is rather self-centric. What is in it for me? Are all the millions the corporate sector is pouring into CSR programming making my life better? Do companies understand how my life can get better? I don’t think so. Because if they did, I wouldn’t be stressed and hyper-ventilating all the time because of what companies do to me. Perhaps unknowingly at times, I grant you that. But nevertheless its time they understood what the first tenet of corporate social responsibility should be. And that is simply, do not stress your consumer. Or for that matter anyone falling within the rather amorphous definition of a stakeholder. So what am I talking about here?

I get stressed when I dial a corporate number and a machine comes on, mechanically instructing me what to do to solve any one of half a dozen possible problems, by pressing a magic digit. I get stressed because I am a human being and when I have a problem I want to talk to a human being. Whoever came up with automated answering should be held responsible for a crime against humanity. I mean really, how much does it cost to have a feweducated young people with great peoples skills as they are called, to answer calls?

I get stressed when I see the mind-boggling profit figures in annual reports and wonder why some of these cannot be passed onto me and to other consumers in terms of lower prices when it has become impossible to make ends meet in these costly times? Hey, isn’t this corporate social responsibility? I don’t know about you, but I get my salary on the first of the month and it’s all gone by the fifth. Used to be the tenth in what seem now to be the good old days. So dear corporate, do me a favour if you want to be socially responsible. If profits are coming out of your ears, reduce your prices for a change. It’s the best public relations you can do!

Then I also get stressed when I buy a product and some of the critical text on the packaging or accompanying leaflet is in a font size that can only be read by using a magnifying glass. Which you will admit is not something you keep within arm’s reach all the time as you go through life. Or perhaps you are expected to have the vision of an eagle that can see a field rat on the ground as large as a football from several hundred feet up in the air. So what is the miniscule lettering if not a deliberate attempt to stress me out? Just make me give up in sheer hopelessness. I am not sure what is worse; trying to read instructions or warnings in font size 2 or being blatantly insulted in this way. See we did tell you what can go wrong but you didn’t read the instructions carefully! Not funny.

And what about all the companies whose CSR strategies do not have any cross reference to their advertising? Shouldn’t it again be a fundamental CSR principle not to take me for a fool and thrust misleading advertising down my throat? Deliberate, pre-meditated hustling, no less, if you ask me. Why not just tell me the truth and let me still buy their products because I appreciate their honesty? Stress. Stress. Stress.

So do I have any takers for my version of corporate social responsibility? One thing I can tell you for sure. Re-think your CSR on these lines and you will do yourself a big favour. Because in essence what you will be doing will be creating ‘sustainable’ consumers. Praetor has given you a new insight. Act on it.

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    One Response to “Any Takers?”

    1. hey.. ive jsut come across this article by you. and in many ways I do understand what you are saying. I worked in the field of CSR in pakistan for almost two years and I came from a background of humanitarian/ development. which is probably why I understand what you are saying. CSR for a corporation is ultimately a “whats in it for me” scenario aswell. they are interested in financial returns they can tap into via CSR (and its not like im disclosing some crazy corporate secret). a business survives on profits. yes, they should engage frequently with the community they operate in and I think in pakistan companies must diversify the choice of products they have available and a wand needs to be waved to break down social barriers and connotations associated with the products we purchase. all this ‘imported/ more expensive= better’ BS.

      sadly, CSR isnt public relations and it isnt philantrophy; but there are various ways through which corporations (local and MNCs) can ‘do good’ and be responsible and one way to do that is by allowing third parties to come in and verify CSR practices. because when its done in house there isnt any transparency.

      March 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm Reply

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