Organizations shouldn’t assume that engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives will automatically increase their credibility with clients. Instead, a new article published in Social Marketing Quarterly finds that, while CSR can indeed increase corporate credibility, if customers perceive the company’s motives as self-serving rather than altruistic, the opposite may occur:
The authors have found that the CSR image of a particular banking institution is based on customer beliefs and perceptions. In line with this idea, the important roles of coherence, motivations, and credibility in image formation have been demonstrated. First, there is a direct relationship between the corporate motivations perceived by the customers of banking services and corporate credibility. In this way, and in accordance with the proposals of attribution theory, this study shows that when the customer of a banking institution perceives that the company has altruistic, extrinsic, or ethical motivations when designing and implementing its CSR initiatives, the company is more credible and customers perceive a more positive CSR image. In contrast, an organization loses credibility when it is perceived as egoist, such as when customers anticipate intrinsic motivations for carrying out social actions and believe that CSR is seeking not the public benefit of the stakeholders but the private benefit of the institution. The loss of credibility contributes to the deterioration of CSR image, which, as an essential component of corporate image, can have direct consequences on corporate reputation as well as indirect effects in customer satisfaction, retention, or identification with the company.
Read the article “Extending on the Formation Process of CSR Image,” by Andrea Pérez and Ignacio Rodríguez del Bosque, both of the University of Cantabria in Spain, in the Social Marketing Quarterly September 2013 issue.