Embedding Social Responsibility Into Your Company: Q&A with Aman Singh

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Embedding Social Responsibility Into Your Company: Q&A with Aman Singh

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Embedding Social Responsibility Into Your #Company: Q&A with @amansinghcsr http://bit.ly/1tsoWDG #CSR
Monday, June 13, 2016 - 12:50pm

CAMPAIGN: Getting to Impact


To continue our Q&A Series, Versaic had the privilege of chatting with CSR and Content Strategy Pro- Aman Singh. Currently, Aman is Senior Managing Editor at RF|Binder where she is responsible for content strategy with a focus on CSR and sustainability. She joined RF|Binder in April from Edelman's Business + Social Purpose practice, where she provided sustainability strategy and communications for some of the world's most responsible brands including Unilever and Nike.
As one of the first journalists to focus on CSR and sustainability issues in the mainstream media, Singh was a primary contributor to the Forbes CSR blog from its start and is a seasoned communicator and social media strategist in purpose. Earlier in her career, she served as CSRwire’s editorial director, leading the media company’s news distribution services, creating and growing its stakeholder engagement campaigns and CSR/sustainability reporting services with private and public organizations. 
Aman has been noted by Trust Across America, HR Examiner, TriplePundit and Guardian Sustainable Business for her work and leadership in the CSR sector. Her work has been published in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, Bloomberg Businessweek, CNBC, GreenBiz, TriplePundit, the American Bar Association’s CSR Journal and others. 
Enjoy our Q&A with Aman Singh!
Versaic: How would you define CSR?
Aman: It's the only way to be sustainable. Without looking at your organization's social, economic and environmental footprint, you cannot be a responsible or ethical organization. Business is created to solve a social or environmental need and as a mentor puts it, effective CSR is when you shift your mindset from "how you spend your money" to "how you make it."
Versaic: What is marketing’s role in driving a brand’s social and environmental sustainability impact?
Aman: Marketing helps drive a brand's sales and build customer loyalty. Effective marketing campaigns also shift perceptions, influence behavior and inform habits. It is how we as consumers and people interact with brands. By embedding social and environmental sustainability attributes and ethos in your marketing efforts, you can create a ripple effect for good or worse - from bad habits such as smoking and racism to responsible behavior such as recycling, tracing the roots of what's in your food and feeling a sense of worth and confidence.
If our north star as a race is to live forever, then we must all pitch in to sustain our planet and our species. That means going beyond preaching to the choir. We must use the might of marketing dollars and creativity to influence behaviors and habits - that is when we will begin to shift from one step at a time to thousands. 

Versaic: What advice do you have for brand marketers who are trying to make CSR or sustainability an essential part of the business?

Aman: Kudos to you for starting the journey - there are many that need to learn from you.
You are the leaders and leaders cannot give up. Work CSR and sustainability principles into your everyday conversations and work, surround those you want to influence with messages that will not just shift their thinking but also resonate with their values. Use real examples, stay close to the heart, know that you can influence millions, know that short term gain is not the final goal, and if nothing works, use humor.
But never ever assume that CSR, sustainability, profitability and marketing are not part of the same equation. Your customers and consumers must thrive for your brand to prosper.
And please, stop counting success according to impressions.
Versaic: What are some of your favorite brands and why?
  • Unilever for initiating such a powerful movement among business by aligning marketing with brand behavior and sustainability. And always pushing for more.
  • Starbucks for having a voice and using their platforms and access to people to ignite important dialogues
  • Patagonia for staying the course and always willing to disrupt.
  • Marks & Spencer for their clarity of purpose and Plan A.
  • PwC for quietly but consistently raising the game on living and working a purposeful life.
  • The Guardian for practicing what they preach.
  • TriplePundit for going deep and wide on CSR and sustainability.
  • PepsiCo for their ability to churn out so many sustainability stars!
  • Ford for their ability to disrupt and rethink their growth.
Versaic: How do you measure the success of a CSR or sustainability program?  
  • Clarity of purpose
  • Deep integration across operations
  • Connect the dots
  • Practice best practice 
  • Willing to discuss challenges and be transparent
  • Willing to challenge the usual - through investor relations or consumer practices
Versaic: How can companies truly differentiate themselves in how they communicate their CSR initiatives and results?
Aman: Most companies of any reputable standing are publishing CSR reports so voluntary disclosure is no longer a distinction. Depth and material disclosure however can still be useful for the ESG and IR communities. For all else, communicate simply. And effectively.
Look for your myriad audiences on social media channels and go strike up a conversation, whether that's true a powerful video, a simple slideshow, a short blog or a tweet. Go find them, don't expect them to come to you.
Empower your leaders to have a voice on social and use a personal tone in their conversations. Humans are natural communicators - we appreciate kindness and humility. We don't do well communicating with bullies and robots. Today we're in an era of content saturation - talk to your key stakeholders on their level: for some that's social media, for other its a simple and well written CSR report, for others its your product website [note I didn't say corporate website], and for many others its what others say about you - and that last part can only be favorable if you're constantly engaging, conversing and having a dialogue.
Most of all, know that communication is a two way street. 
Versaic: What tips can you share with companies who would like to increase the impact of their CSR programs?
Aman: Depends on how you are defining "CSR programs." For me, the moment you add the two words together, the essence of CSR slips away. Companies have volunteering programs, engagement programs, employee appreciation programs, etc. What's a CSR program?
As for impact, be stricter with your partners. Ask for accountability, ask for metrics, focus on depth vs volume. Today we need more collective action. Whitespace is a misnomer. Every brand can lend a hand to reduce discrimination, poverty and climate change. Every brand can address community engagement, STEM education, animal welfare and literacy rates. 
Today, long lasting impact depends on collective action. Be open to togetherness.

Versaic: Where do you see the field going? What has surprised you about how it has changed in say the last decade?
Aman: I see the field becoming more and more embedded across operations. We'll always need sustainability officers and directors to hold these functions accountable and serve as leaders but more and more, we'll need to integrate the ethos of CSR and sustainability across every job function. 
What's surprised is the speed of some of this evolution - some sectors have sped up while others have stayed behind. And the group of people who are in this field doesn't seem to be growing - we're all part of the same puzzle board just shifting around the private and public sectors ecosystem.
Whether it's sponsorship, grants or donation, Versaic's best-in-class solutions are easily combined and customized to provide companies of any size a comprehensive solution for managing their CSR programs. Visit www.Versaic.com to learn more.