Purpose – There is general agreement that global brands should ensure that they incorporate social responsibility. To do this properly, organisations must understand what it means to be socially responsible and how they can leverage their actions. The paper proposes consideration of three distinct areas: the range of social responsibility issues, what the organisations actually do and how to leverage those corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions. This paper seeks to conceptually develop these three areas of complexity – Issue, Organisational and Communication – as it is only after organisations understand these three areas that they can effectively leverage socially responsible activities in their brands.
Design/methodology/approach – This research undertakes a review and synthesis of the academic, practitioner and industry literature examining CSR and the brand, addressing the three areas of complexity – issue, organisational and communication.
Findings – The research finds that within these three areas of complexity there are a number of sub-issues that must be addressed if CSR is to be strategically integrated into a global brand. This includes sub-issues associated with social issue complexity (identification, heterogeneity, measurement, and interpretation); organizational complexity (overall corporate brand, multiple products and brands, functional activities, and supply chain); and communication complexity (intensity of action/positioning, communicating action, types of programs utilised, and integration issues.) It thus provides an agenda for future research. Research limitations/implications – There is limited academic literature examining how global organisations incorporate CSR activities into their brand and the research proposes the issues that need to be considered when integrating CSR into branding strategy. Future research needs to be undertaken to explore the internal processes that global firms use to develop their CSR positioning strategies and some research propositions for future research are proposed. Additionally further exploration of each of the issues (and sub-issues) identified in this paper is warranted, and some suggestions are made for this.
Practical implications – The results of this study show that developing a CSR leveraged brand in a consistent way that is salient to all stakeholders is no simple task for global organisations. By considering the three areas of complexity developed here organisations will be able to better understand and align their activities in line with CSR related issues. Being global means that organisations will likely need to ensure they address the highest set of global expectations, as any lower level may be criticised as being less than appropriate.
Originality/value – The paper develops the sub-issues of issue, organisational and communication complexity associated with global brands' CSR activities. This strategic perspective goes beyond focusing on the tactical activities undertaken or the philosophical issue of whether CSR should be undertaken. The work therefore allows global organisations to look at CSR more strategically as a branding issue.
Field of Research
150503 Marketing Management (incl Strategy and Customer Relations)