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Finland puts future focus on corporate social responsibility

July 19, 2011


The day's program included releasing the results of a survey conducted among ProCom's members. The results reveal that in the past few years Finnish organizations have started to give a lot more weight to CSR issues and to communicating on them, and that many communications professionals are determined to focus considerable efforts on this area in the future as well.

A clear majority (60%) of the survey respondents think that there will be an increasing need for CSR communications expertise in their own organization over the next two years. However, not all of the respondents consider social responsibility issues important: 25% of the respondents give the role of CSR communications little or no weight. For some of the respondents, CSR communications are part of a company's basic communications.

Only 27% of the respondents stated that there is a separate CSR-related communications strategy in place in their organization. For others, CSR issues are mostly part of the normal communications strategy. Environmental responsibility is given the greatest importance by organizations (48% of the respondents find this area the most important), but social responsibility (42%) and economic responsibility (32%) are emerging alongside environmental issues. When asked to evaluate the success of weighting these issues in their own organizations, the respondents considered the choices made as largely successful or at least that they meet expectations. The weighting decisions are, in most cases, made by senior management (78%).

Poor measurement performance

Finnish organizations are still showing poor performance in their monitoring and measuring of CSR communications. 39% of the respondents state that success is monitored but not measured. Surprisingly many (35%) are neither monitoring nor measuring the success of CSR communications. Monitoring is, in most cases, based on methods that are suited to other communications, such as media intelligence, personnel feedback and monitoring of social media discussions.

In large corporations, success is measured using international reporting methods developed for this purpose, such as GRI indicators or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Various reputation and brand surveys and target-group-specific feedback surveys are also perceived as important measurement tools.

Four out of ten (39%) of the respondents' background corporations communicate on their corporate social responsibility in social media. Those who use social media to this end have had to defend their role as responsible corporate citizens more often than others.

Successes and failures especially in crisis situations

When asked for examples of successful CSR communications, the respondents singled out Stora Enso (cooperation with Greenpeace and communications in crisis situations) and Kesko (corporate social responsibility program, reporting and Fair Trade products). The companies Nokia, Neste Oil, Toyota, Stockmann, FiCom and TeliaSonera, among others, as well as WWF's Earth Hour campaign received a special mention for their well-managed CSR communications.

Some of these companies were also cited among the failures. The examples cited included Nokia's layoffs and "blood phones", and Neste Oil and palm oil. Larger and more serious failures outside Finland included BP and the communications surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and communications concerning the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The world is quite paradoxical when it comes to corporate social responsibility communications. Neste Oil is simultaneously one of the world's most awarded and one of the world's "bad guys" in terms of CSR and related communications. Activists have taken it upon themselves to complete the information contained in Wikipedia concerning large corporations. Accurate records of the failures of McDonald's, Nokia, Lidl and Neste Oil can be found on the Internet. Activist groups are keeping a watchful eye on large global corporations.

Many respondents would like to see an improvement in the quality of CSR communications in their own organization. Only 19% of all respondents were completely or quite satisfied. In those organizations that make use of social media for CSR communications, satisfaction was at a higher level (33% completely or quite satisfied) than in those that do not use this channel (9% completely or quite satisfied).

Strongest need for communication in the energy and food industries

In the Finnish respondents' view, CSR communications will play a major role in the future especially in the energy and food industry sectors (65%/56% of the respondents). The pharmaceutical industry and financing and insurance business are also seen as sectors where CSR communications are strongly growing in importance. In the telecommunications and engineering industries, CSR communications were considered to play a minor role.

How the survey was conducted

ProCom's Corporate Social Responsibility Communications 2011 survey was carried out in April 2011 as an email-informed Internet survey that was sent to 1,689 ProCom members. A total of 318 people responded to the survey, 268 of whom were included in the target group. 90% of the respondents were women, which is characteristic of the sector. The survey was carried out by Taloustutkimus Oy for ProCom.

About ProCom

ProCom - the Finnish Association of Communications Professionals - is an organisation for professional corporate and institutional communicators. It's purpose is to foster the professional development of its members and promote the status of communication in Finland. The Association has some 1800 members comprising information officers, communications managers, directors, entrepreneurs and consultants. The abbreviation ProCom comes from the words "Professional Communicators", which refers to the membership, as well as from the concept Pro Communication, which underlines the Association's goal. ProCom operates at the national level and co-operates with local communication organisations throughout Finland.