Part IV B – Branding
Chapter 9: Challenges and Opportunities in a Branding Context
9.2 Branding & CSR
As already mentioned, linking a fashion brand to a CSR agenda might be difficult, as it most often draws on negatively correlated benefits, and as argued by Eder-Hansen (2011) few consumers are currently looking for CSR in fashion products. In addition, according to the CBBE model, being perceived as a CSR minded brand will depend on which brand benefits
87 that are seen as important and how these are judged by the consumers, which refers to the second and third step of the model: 2. Meaning, and 3. Response. In contrast, from the Brand Value Delivery Model, it depends on the Touch Points and how these are managed in order to create value from a CSR minded Brand Platform, thus CSR should a part of the organizations identity (Jones, 2009). This is also in line with Kranker (2011), as he argues that we are now entering Corporate Social Responsibility 3.0 where companies need to acknowledge that Corporate Social Responsibility must be an inherent part of business, identity, and strategy.
Research by Morsing et al (2008) shows that although companies are “encouraged” to engage in CSR activities, they are often discouraged to communicate these activities. Company stakeholders are often compelled to investigate the validity of a company’s CSR claims, thus the companies that are engaging in CSR are often more criticized than companies, which either do not engage in CSR activities or simply choose not communicate them. However, in a Danish context CSR activities are among the most important drivers when looking to create a good corporate reputation. As research shows, 96 % of the Danish population believes that companies should take on social responsibility (ibid). However, the consumers are found reluctant to CSR messages in companies’ communication, creating a paradox; how should companies communicate their CSR initiatives? This correlates with Petersen (2011) as he argues that consumers expect companies to behave morally and ethically correct.
In continuous of their research, Morsing et al presented a normative descriptive model: The Inside-Out Approach (see figure 12), which should guide managers in their CSR communications. They find that companies firstly need to get the commitment of their employees before communicating to their external stakeholders, such as consumers, experts etc.
88 Figure 12: The Inside-Out Approach
Source: Morsing et al. 2008
The basic assumption of the model is that employees are the companies’ most important stakeholders and by getting their commitment it will give them a sense of ownership in relation to the overall CSR agenda. This is in line with the Brand value Delivery Model as the whole organization should work together on delivering a coherent brand value (Jones 2009).
Further, Morsing et al argue that the companies’ communication should be done in stages, as they first need to communicate internally before communicating externally. The external communication should be directed at the most important stakeholders before communicating to the broad general public, thus it comes to create a funnel approach.
The underlying argument for this approach is that most consumers do not have the ability to assess company CSR activities properly. Instead, having experts assess the CSR programme creates legitimacy, as there would be no conflict of interest (Morsing et al. 2008). Although the communication is divided into stages they should be seen as interdependent, hence one should not exclude the other. However, we argue that the approach is subjective, as the nature of the company and the character of the communication message could alter the approach.
Integration and enlargement of the corporate CSR agenda – based on involvement and commitment of employees Safe and appealing
work environment for employees
Local community and people directly affected by the company
National social and environmental issues
International issues related to the company or the industry Employees experience
commitment and personal identification with the organisational CSR agenda – hereby supporting the CSR activities
89 The method of communicating CSR is also industry- and company dependent. Further, the approach will also be context dependent, as Kohlberg argues that people will not grow morally if they do not encounter dilemmas and once insights have been gained they cannot be lost. This relates the approach to the ethical development of our society, meaning that communicating a company’s CSR agenda changes over time as stakeholders gain more knowledge and the CSR concept broadens. Therefore, stakeholders are an essential part of getting CSR to become a brand benefit.
Stakeholder management is traditionally built on the assumption that all persons and/or groups with legitimate stakes in a company are equally prioritized, or at least should be (Cornelissen 2008). As the abovementioned theory suggests, stakeholders should be communicated with in steps when the message contains a CSR agenda. This refers to the idea that stakeholder management must be subjective and can differ in relation to the situation at hand. However, regardless of the situation, “non-market” stakeholders, who are stakeholders that are not having financial transactions with the company, are also taken into account (ibid).
These stakeholders could in some situation be the most important, as companies become increasingly dependent on the societal context (ibid).
The relationships with these stakeholders are not linear; thereby the theory recognizes the mutual dependencies between the company and its stakeholders, creating a more complex and dynamic context to which companies must relate. In continuous, the theory suggests that the companies need to be perceived as legitimate by its stakeholders. Today, legitimacy as a concept goes beyond financial accountability to include both performances in social an ecological issues (ibid), i.e. CSR in relation to the scope of our project.
By conceptualizing accountability through legitimacy, the theory suggests that the companies’
engagements with its stakeholders are not just for instrumental reasons but also for normative reasons, meaning that the engagement goes beyond the connection between stakeholder management and company performance (instrumental reasons) to include concepts such as human rights, social contracts, and ethics etc. (normative reasons). However in practice, these motives are often converged.
90 The theory thereby argues that companies would have to engage in some form of CSR activities in order to obtain legitimacy with its stakeholders. Thus, having a CSR profile in the mind of the consumers seems to depend on this legitimacy.
Nevertheless, some theorists such as Friedman (2000) argue that the business of business is business and the focus of companies should be on creating profits for their shareholders.
Therefore, engaging in CSR is according to Friedman, spending shareholders’ money. In contrast, Porter and Kramer (2006) argue that business and society are no longer separate areas, but have indeed become interdependent, which is in line with our theoretical framework (Sestoft 2010). We therefore argue that stakeholder management becomes even more important as these two concepts become converged, increasing the number of stakeholders, who should be taken into account. Thus, applying the Inside-Out Approach could come to entail several steps in relation to the external communication, as it will depend on the numbers and characters of the stakeholders.
In sum, creating a CSR brand value appeal seems to be dependent on a company’s communication with stakeholders, as put forward by Morsing et al. (2008). However, there are different views on the integration of CSR, as the CBBE model would have CSR be a benefit that ultimately should drive brand equity, but the Brand Value Delivery Model would have CSR as part of the organizations identity. As the CBBE model is viewed as insufficient in relation to our theoretical framework along with research showing that companies’
communication their CSR agenda are often more criticized (Morsing et al. 2008), we argue that having CSR as an essential part of the company’s identity would be the most beneficial.
H4: If CSR becomes the focus of important stakeholders within the fashion industry, it will gain foothold.