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If a brand genuinely wants to make a social contribution, it should start with who they are, not what they do. For only when a brand has defined itself and its core values can it identify causes or social responsibility initiatives that are in alignment with its authentic brand story. Simon Mainwaring


We know that trust is built in incremental steps via a holistic approach that begins with leadership voluntarily choosing to make trust a business imperative. In other words, trust and trustworthiness become core values. Many companies, however, choose to view trust through the narrow lens of corporate social responsibility. They measure their good citizenship according to the number of boxes they check on the various independent surveys and standards of “proper behavior,” and then they use the awards and rewards in their messaging to their stakeholders. Sadly a good percentage of these programs in no way reflect the overall health of the company, and fall very short on gauging the trustworthiness of the organization. One need only look at some of the corporate names that rise to the top of annual “Best of CSR” lists to reach the same conclusion.

Over the past ten years much has been written and debated about corporate social responsibility programs and check the box practices:

2005 The Myth of CSR 

Corporate Social Responsibility A Study of Key Features, Benefits, Criticism and the Various Initiatives.

CSR, The Dangers of Doing the Right Thing

Corporate Social Responsibility: An Overview

At Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, we have been tracking the trustworthiness of almost 2500 public companies over the past five years using our proprietary FACTS Framework. In reviewing the data, what’s often clear is that many of the companies using CSR success as the gold standard of good business are falling far short in other areas of corporate health. Let’s not forget that Enron claimed to have one of the best CSR programs.

Where does CSR end and moral responsibility begin? Does CSR distract the public from asking deeper ethical questions. Does it similarly distract Boards of Directors and C-Suites?

Many claim that any corporate program that “betters” society is good, but not everyone agrees on what is “better” or good. We argue that the betterment of society is not enough. Core values hold the key.

It would behoove leadership to look deeper into trust as a holistic business imperative. Exercising does not ensure good health. Eating well, lowering stress and getting enough sleep are just as important.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Nominations are now being accepted for Trust Across America-Trust Around the World’s 5th annual Global Top Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business.

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                                                                                               Coming Soon!

Should you wish to communicate directly with Barbara, drop her a note at Barbara@trustacrossamerica.com

Copyright © 2014, Next Decade, Inc.




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One Response to “Trust & Corporate Responsibility”

  1. October 6th, 2014 at 10:01 | #1

    Barbara, congrats to you and gratitude from all of us on this, your 100th consecutive daily blog post on trust! Your commitment is inspiring. Regarding CSR as a distraction — it had its moment, i.e. in raising awareness and legitimizing human values and the social role of business. And that moment was eclipsed when CSR became an end in itself. It’s ok: it’s part of the continuum, as long as we, with reminders from people like you, don’t confuse it with the goal: business in service of humanity. More details about what that means for brand management here: Journal of Business Ethics www.soulbranding.com/managing-the-brand/ — and on the “trap” of sustainability here:
    AIGA Interview www.aiga.org/soul-branding-sm-an-interview-with-elsie-maio/
    Regards, Elsie

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