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TCNJ business professor says communicating global “corporate social responsibility” is good for business

EWING, NJ—The College of New Jersey School of Business Professor Karen Becker-Olsen has established a link between sales and international activism.

A recent published study co-authored by Becker-Olsen demonstrates that consumers associate more prestige with brands they consider to be “global,” and a firm’s communication of a global corporate social responsibility (CSR) project tends to improve a consumer’s perception of a brand’s “globalness.” Consumers will reward companies that successfully communicate their programs to help the global community.

Her research will be presented in the next issue of The Journal of International Marketing, the American Marketing Association’s foremost resource on today’s international marketing environment. In the article, “A Cross-Cultural Examination of Corporate Social Responsibility Marketing Communications in Mexico and the United States: Strategies for Global Brands,” the authors show that, despite cultural differences, consumers world-wide expect firms to participate in good citizenship on a global scale.

In light of the many natural disasters that have recently devastated the global community, Becker-Olsen said that this study highlights the need for firms to step up and be part of the response.

“Firms, and their customers and investors, need to see that they have a unique position that allows them to mobilize resources quickly and efficiently – and in the case of disasters, perhaps more so than governments or non-governmental institutions,” she said.

This study was inspired by her work with the Finnish company Nokia six years ago. In early discussions, managers at Nokia suggested they were doing lots of great things, but did not “talk” about those things, she recalled.

“Culturally, Scandinavian companies and customers do not really talk about CSR—very different from the United States,” said Becker-Olsen. “I suggested they think about how to maximize their CSR impact in other regions and that CSR might be able to eventually help build their brand.”

According to Becker-Olsen, CSR programs should be viewed by companies and communities alike as “win-win scenarios.” She said that she advocated for strong strategic CSR programs because of the community benefits that tend to follow.

“CSR not only builds brands and strengthens firms by allowing them to become part of a given community, but it also strengthens the community.  From an ideal perspective, CSR is a mechanism that provides a win-win scenario. Companies win via increased loyalty from consumers, and communities win from increased support in terms of social service funding, reduced environmental impact, stronger safety records, and fair labor practices,” she said.

Becker-Olsen is an associate professor of management, marketing and interdisciplinary business at The College of New Jersey. She received a PhD from Lehigh University in business and economics with concentrations in marketing, economics and statistics in 1998. She has worked as a business analyst for companies like Nokia and Time Warner Publications. Her research in the fields of branding, consumer behavior, corporate social responsibility, and marketing strategy have appeared in numerous publications.