In the previous chapters, we laid out how stakeholders see CR, how
they interpret CR information, and how they respond to CR. This
straightforward multi-step process will – all things being equal – predict
stakeholder behavior and help build the business case for engaging
in CR activity.
But all things are rarely equal. That’s why CR’s ability to create
value depends greatly on the context in which it is implemented.
Knowing how context influences outcomes is critical to effective CR
management, because only managers who build this knowledge into
their decision-making can take full advantage of the opportunities,
while also steering clear of the potential pitfalls.
The significance of context
This chapter presents some of the most important contributing contextual factors in stakeholder responses to CR. We call these multipliers. Multipliers magnify or dampen the effects of one part of our
framework – and therefore its influence – on another part.
For example, the more a stakeholder feels Unity with the company
(a significant contributor to stakeholder involvement, as discussed
in Chapter 5), the more likely the stakeholder will be to purchase
the company’s products. But it’s not quite that simple. The effect
of Unity on purchase is dependent in part on another variable: the
income of the stakeholder. Wealthy consumers are able to express
their Unity with the company very freely, by paying a premium
and purchasing frequently; but low-income stakeholders may be less
likely to demonstrate their devotion to the company because they
have more modest means. Thus, income can be considered a multiplier that influences an important link in the framework.
Numerous other conditions create a context within which stakeholder decisions and reactions occur. The wise manager will pay
attention to these in order to maximize the value of the company’sA good example of a company that is highly attuned to the context
in which it enacts CR is UPS. The company has been extremely
successful at soliciting participation in its United Way programs in
the United States. UPS and its US employee base have collectively
raised millions of dollars for the perennial charity. But when they
decided to engage the thousands of employees located outside the
US, it soon became obvious that rolling out the same programs in
the same way would be far from optimal.
When it came to non-US employees, United Way not only suffered extremely low awareness but also failed to connect with employees at an emotional level. Recognizing that non-US employees would
respond differently than their US counterparts, the company sought
to tailor their CR initiatives to fit the new context.
Companies can enhance the quality of the employee–company
relationship by concentrating on CR issues that employees care
After a year of rigorous study, UPS chose the World Association
of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an organization that engages about
10 million young girls in leadership programs and volunteer projects.
“That gave our employees, no matter where they were, the opportunity to connect to one organization [in a manner] similar to how we
connected to the United Way in the United States,” says Lisa Hamilton, President of the UPS Foundation.1 The company integrates this
signature initiative with others that are specifically tailored to the
needs of individual countries.
By addressing issues that UPS employees care about, the company’s
CR activity accomplished three goals:
It increased awareness of UPS’s charitable giving,
satisfied employees’ needs, and
enhanced the quality of the employee–company relationship much
more than had it not considered these important contextual
In other words, the success of this signature UPS CR initiative was
contingent upon finding an organization that was known and supported by employees in countries outside the US. The clear lesson
from the example above is that when it comes to CR, companies need
to be sensitive to the unique situation in which CR is enacted.
This example may seem obvious in retrospect; however, in our
experience too many companies roll-out CR programs with little or
no consideration of the context. Some managers mistakenly presume
that if a CR program is working with one set of stakeholders it will
work just as well with another. Other managers are so keen to adopt
the “best practices” of peer companies that they fail to make adjustments for their company’s unique challenges and characteristics.