The topic of corporate social responsibility is a modern issue. It started to be a major issue in litterature since the concept of Sustainable development has been defined by the the Brundtland Commission in 1987. The concept introduces a new factor that should be taken into account. It involves for marketers to take into account the social consequences that the firm's marketing activities may have. More generally, it involves that corporations are increasingly being judged not just by the products and profits they make, but also by how these profits are made. Therefore, corporate social responsibility involves doing business in a responsible way that creates value not only for the organisation, but also for its stakeholders and the community within which it operates.
However, how PravatK.Choudhury (1974) emphasis it, Marketing, taken in its basic definition, ignores the social consequences of its activities designed to enlarge and satisfy consumer needs and wants. Marketing can be defined in several ways. The definitions given by the chartered Institute of Marketing in 2001 is as follows: “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”. The definition given by the American Marketing Association in 1985 is as follows: “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchange and satisfy individual and organisational objectives”.
Both the definitions involve that the marketer should be focused on customer requirements and then attempt to design products or services suited for the target audience. "The goal of business is to generate profits; social responsibility is the responsibility of government" (Levitt 1970). The sentence from Levitt summarise well the issues that araise. Should the marketing take into account the social responsibility? And what should be the nature of social responsibility of marketing?
First, we will discuss the benefits that araise from the social responsibility integrated in the marketing function. Then, we will analyse what should be done to incorporate this concept in the marketing strategy. At last, we will try to conclude that incorporating social responsibility in marketing is not the main problem. The main problem comes from ensuring the credibility of CSR.
The benefits of social responsability in the corporate
Given its nature, the corporate social responsibility has received many criticism form economists. The most famous critic comes from an article written Milton Friedman, published in the New York Times. According to Friedman, only individuel people may be responsible and corporate taken as whole may not follow social responsibility. A modern criticism comes from David Henderson (2001). He compares Corporate social responsibility to an anti-capitalist ideology. However these criticisms seem to be too narrow.
The world is changing and the corporate world as well. The marketing function, which is one of the major function in the corporate, has always changed to adapt to social Framework. One interesting definition of Corporate social responsibility is given by Lerner and Fryxell (1988). According to them, CSR describes the extent to which organizational outcomes are consistent with social values and expectations.
Today, there is a real trend that push consumers to become aware of social consequences of their behavior. For instance, people are more and more aware of the environmental issues and they want to protect it. So, there is more and more people, who includes this factor in their purchasing decision. For instance, a Survey realized by RSW Inc in 1993, shows that most customers, if price and quality are equal are more likely to Switch to a brand that had a cause related marketing benefit. The Survey shows that 86% of consumers in UK are likely to Switch to brands that claim to help a cause.
Moreover, there is a real danger for marketing. The law tend to enhance the trend for implementing CSR in the marketing. For instance, in the USA, There is a Federal Environmental Agency which is in charge to control the new product that may have impact on environment.
Philip Kotler (1972b) emphasis that one of the signs of the health of a discipline is its ability to review its focus, techniques and the goals as new problems require attention. Kotler add that Marketing has shown this aptitude in the past. And it has to to do so now. This is relevant as the CSR becomes a real necessity for marketing.
What should be done?
Even if CSR seems to ba a real necessity for marketing, many companies tend to use cause related marketing as a communication tool. Brønn and Vrioni (2001) define cause related marketing as communicating its corporate social responsibility through advertising, packaging, promotion and so on. Thay raise the issue of CSR as Buzzword that remains more a marketing argument without consistency. The phenomena may be called the Greenwashing, word used by Jay Westerveld in 1986. According to him it is the practice of companies presenting their products or services as green even if they are not. For instance, in 2009 European Macdonald's changed their color from yellow and red to yellow and green. An article in Wired Magazine shows that slogans used are used to suggest environmentally aspect og business: the Comcast ecobill has the slogan of « Paper less is more» bu this company uses a large amount of paper for direct marketing. Another astonishing example comes from Vinci. In 2009, when the A16 motorway has been inaugurated, Vinci used the slogan «éco-autoroute». Those examples show the danger that CSR becomes a simple new marketing slogan without any consistency.
One of the major issue concerning marketing strategy and CSR is the form that the meeting of the two concept should take. Each company has its one understand of CSR. Posnen and Blomqvist (2004) found three strategies for integreting CSR with brand marketing. The case of shell is analysed in their paper. The most that raise is that too many activities in the corporate are unconnected. The result for Shell is many scandals. Shell had a marketing strategy to present its company as responsible. However due to the severals iresponsible behavior of its top managers, Shell's image remains as previous, a corporate that only want to make profit. So according to Posnen and Blomqvist a corporate should assess how CSR investement support marketing objective. It should then find what could be bring together between CSR objective and marketing objective. And last but not least, a corporate should have a real implementation plan. For instance, Whole Foods has used a integrated approach to make its CSR approach as a key driver in its business. Instead of having only a sub-brand focusing on one aspect of CSR, Whole Foods has a complet related product portfolio. All its marketing strategy has to be based on social and organic criteria. More than focusing only on its products, Whole Foods involves its employees as well in this way. And as result, Whole Foods is seen as a responsible corporate. The examples of Whole foods shows that talking about CSR is not enough. Marketing should review its business practices and should have consistent communications in very tangible ways. This means, to have a real department associated with the marketing to lead the change. For instance, one of the weaknesses of implementing CSR in marketing strategy, is its inability to measure the contribution of CSR to the marketing strategy. For marketing, this involves changing the traditional Tools for analysing the performance. In accounting for instance, The ABC method take into account social and non quantitative factors. This method may be included in the marketing as a new assessing method of results. The example of Wal Mart that reviewed all its suppliers strategy, shows how it is important to have a balanced image. In order to reinforce its green attitude, Wal Mart forced its suppliers to reviews some of their prectices. Therefore, in order to avoid that CSR remain a simple philosophy in marketing, sometimes the whole marketing strategy has to be renew.
More and more companies are using corporate social responsibility as a new marketing tool. By implementing CSR in Marketing strategy, companies expect to increase brand awareness. We have seen that CSR become a necessity on which companies depend as consumer are becoming more and more aware of social consequences of corporates. However, what does CSR mean for Marketing? For some, it is reduced to a marketing communication. But unfortunatelt, that results in a nonsense stratgey. Because CSR is more than a simple communication strategy. It is built on real factors and on a values. Companies that understand what CSR means, changed all their marketing strategy. However, this remain currently a niche.
In long term, CSR is expected to be standard as social consequences of some corporates become unacceptable. But one limits seems to raises here. Indeed, for a lot of people there is clear separation between CSR and marketing. This results from a traditional view of marketing for consumers. Rather than focusing on the impact of CSR on the marketing strategy , marketer should Wonder whether CSR remains a credible field.