March 18, 2017
Nicole Thomas, senior communications specialist at FedEx Global Citizenship, provided her audience at the AMA International Collegiate Conference with an overview of what corporate social responsibility is and how to get involved in it.
According to Thomas, CSR consists of a number of factors, including corporate giving, charitable contributions, corporate citizenship, social investment, sustainability and community outreach.
“CSR is doing good with what a company is good at doing,” she says.
There is, however, a huge difference between what a company chooses to do, she says, and what they have to do.
She gave the example of alcohol brands telling consumers to drink responsibly. It’s a positive sentiment, but it’s also something they have to say.
A potential CSR framework, she says, can include business practices, workplace commitment, social citizenship and environmental sustainability. Thomas says that companies have given charitably for a very long time, but it typically started as doing good to look good and was sometimes only a matter of writing checks.
“It’s come full circle, now,” she says, “and companies want to make sure that what they’re doing is impactful. How do you get the most good and have the most impact for the time or resources you do have?”
The sweet spot of CSR, Thomas says, is a combination of social needs/problems, core competencies, global footprint, business goals and solutions to social needs.
Thomas says many organizations can cooperate through CSR. For example, aligning and working with a brand with a nonprofit organization can often introduce the nonprofit to an entirely new audience. She also says companies involved in CSR tend to work with similar companies to boost their efforts.
“Brands of a feather flock together,” Thomas says. “When you can call up your brand friends and pitch a program, they want to do that.”
Speaking specifically to FedEx’s CSR efforts, she says the company recognizes its role in the global economy. About a year ago, FedEx announced its plans to invest $200 million in more than 200 global communities by 2020.
“We recognize we’re a global company but we have a local impact,” Thomas says. “We have global signature programs but we implement them locally.”
She says the company’s efforts have included Employment Pathways, under which the company helps to build a stronger workforce by creating pathways to meaningful employment for underserved populations. FedEx has worked with, for example, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the National Urban League.
Thomas provides a few examples of why CSR matters:
94% of consumers report they are likely to switch brands in price and quality to one that supports a social issue.
91% of consumers say they would buy a product associated with a cause if given an opportunity.
81% say they would donate to a charity supported by a company they trust, if given the opportunity.
For those looking to move into the CSR career path, she recommends considering some key skills, including adaptability, program/project management and communication skills.
“This was my dream job,” she says.