CEO Weekly INsights
October 11, 2017
CSR is Creating New Business and Opening New Markets for Purpose Driven Companies
Leading companies show how CSR gave them creative favorable opportunities.
“CSR activities can open up new markets. And it can create favorable conditions for businesses.” So says Lonneke Roza, of the Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University and Satell Institute thought leader.
“For example, Microsoft engages in CSR to consider markets that are unknown to them. They helped developing countries build IT systems. This has helped them open up new markets, creating new business opportunities for them.”
This and four other stories in this article demonstrate that what begins as a noble CSR project can end up as excellent business development.
This is part of the miracle of free enterprise. Serving the well-being of a community can eventually create more business. That's a true creative win-win, which truly benefits all.
Using CSR to tap into emerging markets
Apple is another example of a company that used CSR to enter, and eventually capture an emerging market. As a rising company, Apple saw an opportunity to get their products into the classroom. By donating computers to schools, Apple connected their products to education, and made a significant contribution in preparing students and teachers for the computer age. “Doing well” for education soon had gains for the community. And for Apple. Parents began buying Macs instead of PCs. This led to a generation of loyal Mac users, and Apple fans.
Focusing on business objectives
Some companies have had success in using CSR to enter new markets by narrowing their CSR activities to areas critical to their business objectives.
Merck’s public-private partnership focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in southwest China serves as another useful example.
A market leader in researching and developing HIV drugs, Merck began working with 1,600 organizations to promote awareness of the disease and establish surveillance networks for gathering information from health care workers and patient-monitoring systems. Company representatives conducted extensive research to learn more about local health needs, which helped them establish relationships with more than 11,800 government and policy makers and 8,261 health care workers. As a result, the company contributed solutions to a significant societal need, and company leaders are building relationships that will build their business.1
Building business relations
In emerging economies, technical equipment and trained staff are often in short supply. A company’s CSR initiatives can overcome these, and effectively plant the seeds for future business.
Novartis, the global health care company, built local infrastructure when partnering with the World Health Organization to create an e-learning program for educating health care workers in remote locations about integrated management of childhood illnesses. This innovative business initiative allows program directors to follow up with individuals who have been trained. It is part of Novartis’ strategy to build relationships—and business—in non-urban markets. 1
Better knowledge of the local market
Firms often find terrific value in collecting data and experiences directly from their company-led CSR and other programs in the field.
For example, Pfizer used its Global Health Fellows program to gain insight about local markets and channel it back to headquarters. Through this program, Pfizer sends about 200 employees on six-month assignments around the world to train and support nonprofit partners. These employees share valuable information they learned in the field that can eventually improve the Pfizer’s approach to local markets. 1
These creative approaches have proven that doing good for the community can also be good for the company. While these approaches can of course present challenges, there are great opportunities to be realized by moving a purpose forward with CSR.
1 BSR blog May 10, 2011 authors MARK LITTLE, Former Director, Healthcare, Advisory Services, BSR, and ADAM LANE, Former Manager, BSR