Understanding Corporate Responsibility

November 9, 2010

By Susan Ennis, APR

Companies have long supported their communities in various ways, from sponsoring little league teams to encouraging executives to serve on nonprofit boards of directors.  For many, the motive has been as simple as being interwoven into the community – “giving back.”  Over time, there has been a significant shift in focus.  Corporations began to realize the benefits of utilizing community outreach programs as public relations strategies and linking sales objectives to cause marketing campaigns.

In recent years, the term “Corporate Responsibility” has emerged to reflect the importance of a unified approach to stakeholder relations.  According to Jay Whitehead, president and publisher of CRO Magazine, only two executives had the title of corporate responsibility officer in 2006.  Today, more than 650 professionals serve their companies in this role.  Whitehead expects the numbers to continue to grow. “The rate at which companies are engaging professionals specializing in Corporate Responsibility (CR) is growing at a similar pace as when companies began placing more importance in retaining Human Resource (HR) professionals.  There were only 40 HR professionals employed in North America in 1982, in contrast to the more than 250,000 professionals employed in HR today.”

Often referenced as Corporate Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship, the practice of CR focuses on four principles.  Social responsibility, which rose in importance in the 1960s and 1970s, reflects the obligation that business organizations have to benefit society at large.  Environmental sustainability, which has ballooned in importance since the onset of global warming, concentrates on the responsible use of natural resources and reducing the company’s impact upon the environment; for instance, minimizing the company’s carbon footprint or identifying marketing and production procedures that more efficiently utilize resources.  The third area of CR takes into account government risk and compliance which grew out of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Corporate philanthropy, many times administered through a company foundation, rounds out the areas of responsibility that fall under the CR umbrella, which is more broadly defined as how companies manage business processes to produce a positive impact on society.

Business leaders understand the strategic importance of establishing a mutually beneficial partnership with a nonprofit organization in order to further its CR goals.  Despite the size of the company, care should be taken in forming these partnerships.  Programs should be evaluated as they relate to the company’s values and corporate culture, taking into account the value stakeholders place on social and environmental objectives.   Look closely at the nonprofit’s track record for achieving outcomes and ensure that its mission statement meshes well with the company’s values.  Above all, partners should be held accountable.

While companies that have heavily invested in Corporate Responsibility celebrate their successes, cynics abound, pitting shareholder value against being a good neighbor.  CR executives are finding that measuring the impact of their programs and sharing information through regular reporting is of critical importance.

During a break-out session at this year’s FPRA Annual Conference, Dr. Mary Ann Ferguson, Ph.D. Communications University of Florida, shared research findings on effective CR reporting.  During the presentation, Ferguson stressed the importance of transparency as companies take on an attitude of good citizenship.  The trend is to move from annual reports to Web-based reporting models that allow for ongoing updates.  Measuring and reporting can be too time consuming and expensive for small to mid-size businesses, but Ferguson recommended that the Global Reporting Initiative, which has been adopted by many large corporations, may hold some best practices that smaller businesses can adopt.

CR strategy should be carefully integrated into the brand and care should be taken to not overstate accomplishments.  Much can be learned by studying the efforts of the many companies that have established themselves as leaders in CR – Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Timberland are a few standouts.  Ferguson suggested studying the efforts of the Forbes list of The 20 Most Responsible Companies.

Values-based companies recognize the competitive advantage of CR, strategically leveraging the value of the company’s philanthropy and volunteer services to benefit not only its community and employees, but also the company itself.  Business models that succeed in driving profits while making a positive impact are attractive to shareholders and customers.  As a result, more CEOs and boards of directors are adding CR to their agenda, embedding initiatives into the way they do business.

Susan Ennis,  president of EnSpire Communication Consultants, is accredited in public relations (APR) by the Universal Accreditation Board, a mark of distinction held by fewer than 10 percent of public relations professionals.  She combines more than 20 years experience in business development and marketing communications with her expertise in PR to develop and implement strategic communications plans for clients.

Deadline Extended to Enter to Win an iPod Shuffle

November 9, 2010

Don’t miss your chance to win one of three 2G iPod Shuffles! The Florida Public Relations Association’s Orlando Area Chapter has extended the deadline for you to enter for a chance to win. All you must do is renew your FPRA membership by Tuesday, November 30.

A renewal form has already been mailed to you. You can complete the form and mail or fax it back to FPRA’s State Office or you can renew online at www.fpra.org.

Why Should You Renew?
Networking with other public relations professionals is one of the primary benefits of a FPRA membership. We offer:

  • Opportunities to network online with a statewide community of PR professionals, as well as face-to-face at monthly chapter events;
  • Monthly presentations from leading experts that will sharpen your skills;
  • Professional development seminars held at various times and locations throughout the year.
  • Relevant resources on job searching and professional development to help you advance your career;
  • Exclusive behind-the-scenes Backstage Pass opportunities to see PR in action at some of Orlando’s best and brightest companies;
  • A monthly chapter newsletter to help keep you informed;
  • Industry-specific roundtable events;
  • Professional recognition through local Image Awards and statewide Golden Image Awards – the only local and statewide PR awards program in Florida
  • A two-tier credentialing process for members who seek professional accreditation; and
  • A highly-acclaimed statewide Annual Conference held in August of each year.
  • Just 47 Cents Per Day

As the cost of doing business continually rises and budgets tighten, many organizations are feeling the strain of a sour economy. It is because of these challenges that it is now more important than ever to utilize the many tools and resources that a FPRA membership offers. FPRA is committed to providing you with the most relevant resources to advance your professional career, especially during these tough economic times.

At just 47 cents per day, an FPRA membership is one of the best investments you can make. We hope you will renew today!

Log in to fpra.org to renew, then click “Renew Membership” at the left.

    SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, December 2

    November 9, 2010

    Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida Meal Service Volunteer Event

    As is becoming an FPRA-OAC tradition, this holiday season let’s join together for a unique opportunity to give back. We will prepare and serve dinner at the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida – event starts at 6:30 p.m. The Coalition for the Homeless is located at 639 West Central Boulevard, Orlando, 32801.

    More details coming soon…

    Nathan DeVault named one of the “Men to Watch” by Orlando Business Journal

    November 9, 2010

    Congratulations to Costa DeVault’s Vice President, Nathan DeVault, for recently being named by the Orlando Business Journal as one of Central Florida’s rising stars – “Men to Watch.” The 10 local businessmen were selected based on the fact that they have the potential to make an indelible impression in both their professions and the community in the years to come.

    Nathan has already made a lasting impression at Costa DeVault, joining the firm in 2002. Since that time, he has helped to grow the business exponentially, developing new profit centers and lines of business.

    Achievements & Progressions

    November 9, 2010
    Congratulations to FPRA Board member Ryan Dumas on his new position with Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) as PR specialist.
    Allie Stevens
    Congratulations to FPRA Board member Allie Stevens on her new position with Valencia Community College in Orlando as a senior strategic marketing manager.

    Counselors’ Network Winter Symposium January 20-22, 2011

    November 9, 2010

    The Counselors’ Network Winter Symposium will be held at the Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios from January 20-22, 2011. The hotel reservation deadline is December 30. Reservations can be made by calling 1-866-360-7395.

    The two-day conference, known as the “Mid-year Meeting,” features three half-day sessions with presenters who speak about current issues and trends. Attendees enjoy stimulating dialogue in a round-table format. Typically held at a five-star resort property, the intimacy of the locations often contributes as much to the dynamic fellowship and productive idea sharing as the professional sessions during annual conference.

    About the Counselors’ Nework
    Membership in the Counselors’ Network is open to any Universally Accredited APR member in good standing of the Florida Public Relations Association, who has also earned the FPRA CPRC credential, has 10 years public relations experience and is actively engaged in providing counseling service, either as a full-time principal, officer, partner or employee of a public relations firm, corporation, organization or agency. In addition, an applicant must have been a professional counselor for a period of at least three years. Each member of the Counselors’ Network must re-verify his or her eligibility when renewing annual membership.

    CN provides senior level public relations counselors the opportunity for professional enrichment and continuing education through two professional development retreats and direct access to FPRA conference key speakers and other prominent national PR leaders.

    Free APR Workshops Now in Session

    November 9, 2010

    APR is a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice. Candidates earn accreditation based on broad knowledge, strategic perspective and sound professional judgment. Earning your accreditation is a great way to stand out from your peers.

    The Orlando Chapters of FPRA and PRSA team up each fall and spring to host a series of workshops for those interested in becoming accredited. Fall workshops are in progress and will wrap up on November 15, but spring sessions will be starting soon. If you are interested in attending, or would like more information about accreditation, please contact FPRA Orlando Area Chapter VP of Accreditation Stefanie Macfarlane, APR at smacfarlane@cfl.rr.com or 321.578.1722.

    Members of FPRA are eligible for up to $150 in rebates after completing the workshops and passing the computer-based exam within 30 days after the workshops end.

    Learn more about the accreditation process by visiting the official Web site of the Universal Accreditation Board at www.praccreditation.org.

    Congratulations to Orlando’s Newest APR

    Congratulations to Chris Gent, APR who earned his Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential in August. Chris is vice president of corporate communications at Kissimmee Utility Authority. He has been a member of FPRA for 16 years and currently serves on the Orlando Area Chapter board as vice president of technology & online communications as well as on FPRA’s statewide executive committee as vice president of technology.

    2011 Image Awards – Don’t Wait Until Spring to Spring into Action!

    November 9, 2010

    The 2011 FPRA Image Awards are coming in April!

    While the deadline for entries is not until March, the call for entries will be available in early January. Why not get started now? Begin thinking about your projects and planning your submissions today, so you can blow us away and get recognized for your hard work come April.

    Not sure what to submit but still want to get involved? Then join the 2011 Image Awards Committee. Committee members play a vital role in the success of the Image Awards, contributing to areas such as event logistics, theme development, sponsorships, promotion and overall execution.

    Serving on the committee will give you great experience for your resume and allow you to network with some of the most respected PR professionals in Central Florida. It is an excellent way to get the most out of your FPRA membership!

    The next Image Awards Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. at Engauge (904 N. Orange Ave., Orlando). If you want to attend, please e-mail Image co-chairs Amy (Bunn) Hanigosky at AHanigosky@engauge.com, or Kendall Litton Jensen at LittonJensenK@seminolestate.edu.

    Please also e-mail the event co-chairs if you have any questions or if you are interested in sponsoring the 2011 Image Awards.