Brand Social Responsibility – BSR

Talking to my good friend Tim Wilson last night about product tracebility and the fiasco of current labelling practice, ...

December 11, 2003

Talking to my good friend Tim Wilson last night about product tracebility and the fiasco of current labelling practice, he made the very valid point that Corporate Social Responsibility if largely an irrelevance for stakeholders.

His point is simple. Corporate action is too fuzzy and too mired in regulation to be truly accountable,or even auditable. CSR promises are too woolly, too sporadic, and largely irrelevant to business sustainability. Attempts by human beings to drive a focused CSR response from corporations can only ever be weakly effective.

Product Social Responsibility (PSR) on the other hand, is actionable for both sides and offers a clear source of differentiation for companies which can embed ethical value into their product. Witness organics, fair trade etc.

I only add to his insight to say that BSR, or brand social responsibility is the real opportunity. Organisations have legal duties. It is brands, whether product or corporate which carry ethical promises and implications and thereby acquire responsibility.

The 21st century challenge is not merely for Coca Cola Company to address its CSR duties, which are ultimately compliance and reporting-driven, but for ‘Coke’ (the brand) to shape its emotional and ethical context and cultivate value exchanges – on a scale commensurate with its sphere and scope of influence…to address it’s Corporate Marketing to all its brand customers – each and every stakeholder.

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