Mar 242010

**This post is part of our Social Enterprise Series this week, leading up to the 2nd annual Social Enterprise Symposium on Thursday, March 25.  View the live stream of the event here. 

By Scott Henderson

Let me get this out in the open.  I think it’s ridiculous that we even need to have a term like “corporate social responsibility” or “CSR.”  What’s more meaningless than talking in jargon and acronyms?

You can’t compartmentalize doing good anymore.  It’s not a department.  It’s not a job title.  It’s who you are and what you do, not just what you say you are.

Somewhere along the way, we collectively forgot this fact.

In the broadcast era, those running companies were detached from those who bought their products and services. Brands were created to personify the company.  By their very nature, brands are artificial constructs.  This disconnectedness created a numbing effect on ethics and decision-making – much like a man shaving with a face full of Novocain.

Historically, companies have used cause marketing, corporate philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility efforts to offset any negative behaviors.  Interestingly, many have housed these in different silos of operations. But with the world increasingly becoming interconnected, consumers want to see brands and companies realign their cause efforts into an integrated strategy.

For this reason, companies need to be rooted in authentic commitments to doing good. They need to be alive and dynamic, constantly manifesting themselves in the individual and collective actions of company staff and like-minded partners. Their initiatives should be aligned with company culture and principles, not out there as standalone projects.

Everything about our society is changing – rapidly and constantly.
  How we communicate, get and share information, and engage each other — online and offline – is different than it was just a few short years ago.

Information moves faster, people are more closely connected, and the level of interest and commitment that people have when it comes to social issues and causes has never been greater. Our society has shifted and how companies support causes, respond to disasters, and mobilize the public needs to shift as well.

The time has come for companies to move past the gimmicks and devote more earnest efforts at addressing the root problems of our day.  It’s time companies ask more of their charity partners and actually solve the causes, not just serve them.

It’s time we get real about our role in bettering the world.  Are you with me?

Scott Henderson is managing director of CauseShift, helping organizations think, innovate and solve problems.  He is currently leading, a yearlong initiative to shift the conversation about hunger in America and create real, tangible solutions.  Follow him on Twitter at @ScottyHendo.

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