This site is about the various ways there are to pay it forward, and many of those involve big well-known companies and their social responsibility efforts. Typically I give the benefit of the doubt to companies and their efforts to be socially responsible and have received criticism for mentioning brands which previously had a less than stellar history of social responsibility. I am all about social responsibility and putting our consumer dollars behind socially responsible brands.
Fortunately, statistics show that most people share those views. Just this week another study was released stating that 90% of shoppers are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause and even more say they would be loyal to socially responsible businesses. Corporate social responsibility is no longer optional for companies, especially those of a certain size and stature.
Yet still somewhat unclear are the methods by which companies effectively and altruistically put their social responsibility dollars to use. Since the tornadoes earlier this week, multiple press releases have gone out regarding big well-known companies and their efforts to help the people of Oklahoma. While I am thrilled to hear that companies are helping out, a press release within 48 hours of the storm’s passing just feels icky. It is not too soon to be helping, but may be too soon to be touting it. It feels like walking that fine line between helping because you should and helping for the sake of publicity.
It feels like a form of Oklahoma-washing.
Washing when corporations and brands try to increase sales by associating their products with a cause, such as breast cancer (known as pinkwashing) and the environment (known as greenwashing). In truth, brands that employ washing techniques in reality donate a negligible portion of proceeds to the cause.
Let me make this clear. I do not believe that these companies are actually engaging in washing. These companies have rallied around the people of Oklahoma swiftly and effectively and I fully support any and all efforts to help the people who need it. I am, however, somewhat disturbed by the speed at which they chose to put out a press release about their actions. Perhaps they could have waited just a bit longer before announcing their efforts to the media so the actions came off a little more sincere.
So I ask, what do you think? Am I just being hypersensitive? What are the unspoken rules, in your opinion, for how a company should respond in a situation such as the one in Oklahoma? Where is the line for you between social responsibility and altruism? Is there one?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.