By Macharia Kamau
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been taken lightly by a number of local organisations.
Few companies factor CSR activities in their annual budgets. Most of the companies that set aside money for CSR give paltry amounts that cannot oversee to finality projects that solve problems among communities.
Traditionally, corporate Kenya has treated Kenyans to what one might call mediocre CSR projects, mostly entailing tree planting or water projects and numerous photo opportunities that are then distributed in media.
There has been little follow up on these projects and most of them end up not serving the real purpose for which they were initiated, leading one to conclude that firms only crave the publicity that comes with CSR activities.
CSR is, however, an area that has potential to significantly boost a company’s public image. It has been looked at as a means for a company to get a ‘social licence or buy-in’ to operate in a market and has been known to soften a market.
Ken Kariuki, managing director Khweza Consulting, however, notes that if well executed, a CSR project endears a brand in the minds and hearts of the people in an emotional manner as opposed to other communication methods that sell a product to them.
“It has massive impact on brand equity. CSR activities usually touch people in an emotional way and endear a brand in their minds and hearts in a manner that other communication marketing methods may not,” he said.
“The opposite is also true, if a project is poorly executed, it can undermine a product.”
Kariuki’s firm is outsourced by companies operating in Kenya to undertake CSR projects on their behalf, giving room to the firms to concentrate on their core businesses.
He noted that locally, CSR has not been on the agenda of many firms, but firms are starting to make enquiries.
He pointed out that most firms taking up CSR have made mistakes of seeking the attention that come with the execution of CSR projects, rather than genuinely give back to society.
“Certain companies will make the mistake of seeking glory... some will be quick to get to the photo opportunities and distribute them on different media and end up forgetting the actual job. Such mistakes could be disastrous,” he said.