Six Organizational Models for Integrating Brand with CSR

Sustainable Life Media Corporate Social Responsibility is inextricably linked to a
company's brand identity – but integrating CSR into brand efforts
requires a roadmap. Following are six organizational models which
integrate the two – outlining that roadmap for success.

Posted Sept. 2009

By Carol Holding and Lucille Pilling, Sustainable Life Media

Today, corporations know that corporate social responsibility (CSR)
is inextricably linked to their reputations and brand identities.
Integrating CSR and brand efforts without a roadmap, however, can be
daunting. To address this need, the authors conducted in-depth
semi-structured interviews with key managers in brand and CSR
departments in the five industries – financial services,
pharmaceuticals, extraction, consumer products and technology –
identified by McKinsey as being more prominently engaged in CSR
activities. From our analysis, we identified six organizational models
for integrating brand and CSR, which fall into two categories,
Non-adaptable Models and Adaptable Models. This summary will focus on
the second category and replicable examples that brand/CSR integrator
can apply to their own situation.

Three Non-adaptable Models

Model #1: Mission-Driven

This model is the purest example of Brand/CSR integration and occurs
almost exclusively in companies that were founded with social
responsibility as a core value. In fact, these companies are so aligned
with CSR in both brand and operations as to warrant the label "social
enterprises." Even in this social enterprise environment, however,
brand and CSR must be formally linked for reporting and other purposes.
For example, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters hired its first CSR officer
was hired in 2000, nearly 20 years after the company was founded and
its first CSR report was published in 2005.

Model #2: Product-Driven Consumer Companies

These are companies whose brand/CSR integration efforts are
traditionally grounded in their product brands. PepsiCo is an example
of a company whose CSR/brand integration is product-focused, starting
with its Quaker Oats division's partnership with the World Heart
Foundation. Despite corporate-level support and measurement, brand-CSR
integration will always be centered on individual brands.

Model #3: Super-Regulated Industries

Companies in this category are often blocked from efforts to
integrate brand and CSR because their products are so highly
scrutinized by both regulators and the public. We spoke with several
pharmaceutical companies, all of whom were cautious because their
culture does not support brand/CSR integration.

Three Adaptable Models

Our next three models provide replicable roadmaps for integrating a company's brand with its CSR efforts.

Model #4: Individual Champion

This model, exemplified by Symantec, the maker of Norton Anti-Virus
software, is based on a single person who initiates and manages CSR in
all its facets, including brand/CSR integration. Though the initial
idea for a CSR program came from out of branding, the effort was
actually launched in the External Affairs department. Cecily Joseph,
Director of CSR, used the UN Global Compact as Symantec's CSR
framework, then added the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Once the
structure was in place and the management involvement was established,
the project took on a life of its own. One example Joseph cites is the
"environmental stewardship council, which started with 10 or 15 people.
By the end of the year we had 50 people. And this includes senior
people, VPs – all volunteers."

Model #5: Communications Team

In this model, CSR resides in the communications department and is
used specifically as a brand-building tool. According to Steve Kess, VP
Professional Relations at Henry Schein, the drug distribution company,
CSR is managed by three departments, Corporate Communications,
Community Relations, and Professional Relations, all of whom report to
the EVP of Communications to insure that the branded CSR program "Henry
Schein Cares" reaches both employees and Schein's suppliers and
worldwide operating companies.

Different models were found at larger companies – Adobe, the design
software company, has a CSR department within marketing who works
closely with the Brand Director – and smaller ones like Bankrate, the
personal finance website, whose functionally organized marketing
managers all participate in CSR projects.

Model #6: Organic Partnerships

This is the most mature brand/CSR integration model and is based on
systematically interrelated parts rather than an existing structure.

At HSBC, CSR is a separate department but brand/CSR integration is
applied throughout the company. For example, Nicole Rousseau, HSBC' VP,
Retail Marketing, coordinated the launch of HSBC's first US
environmental campaign "Commit to Change."

Key to building the campaign was forming the employee launch team.
"[We found people] who were really engaged and energized about the
environment in every department," Rousseau told us. Another initial
task was identifying the sustainability projects that already existed
in the US Bank. "Everyone learned in the process about what we had been
doing for years." Working closely with HSBC's Sustainable Development
Group in the UK and HSBC's US CSR department, Rousseau's team built a
campaign that put CSR at the center of HSBC's retail marketing efforts.

At Chevron, the oil giant, the CSR report is the responsibility of
the Global Issues and Policy Group while the company's new brand "Human
Energy" reinforces CSR's company-wide integration across all

At Cherokee, the private equity firm, Jonathan Philips, Senior
Director of Marketing, describes brand/CSR integration as the center of
the brand: "To this day, (we) do not have a corporate brochure, (we
use) our Sustainability Report for both investors and recruiting


In identifying organizational prototypes on which managers can build
brand/CSR integration, we found not only replicable organizational
prototypes but also an evolutionary path:

  • The Individual Champion is the model common to early stage
    brand/CSR integration efforts and the model of choice for high-tech
    companies and other flat, nimble organizations.
  • Within 10 years of the start of the effort, three of the four
    companies we identified for the Individual Champion Model evolved into
    the Communications Team Model. We would argue that this is a natural
    and predictable evolution.
  • The Organic Partnerships Model works well in the old-line companies
    we interviewed. Their age and industry maturity guarantee that some
    form of community involvement is well entrenched in the organization
    and culture, and the full integration of Brand and CSR evolves
    organically over time.

Carol Holding is founder of Holding Associates,
a brand strategy firm focusing on the integration of brands and CSR.
Carol is also chair of the HBS Club of NYC Social Enterprise Summit and
a member of the International Women's Forum. Prior to founding Holding
Associates, Carol served as an executive in communications firms McCann
Erickson and Siegel + Gale and developed new consumer products as a VP
at Citibank.

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