rebuilding trustIf we express our values through our community investment, then to substantiate our authenticity, we need to be consistent in applying those values to our core business.

by Kevin Moss, Head of CSR at BT Americas.

I was honored to be the keynote presenter recently at the PR News 2009 CSR Awards at the National Press Club in DC. The awards program has been running since 2005 with an ever broadening range of awards categories. It is much broader than the PR News title might lead you to expect.

In my keynote I addressed how we can rebuild trust in business. All the trust surveys aside, I find it most notable that three of this year’s Oscar best picture nominations, Avatar, District 9 and Up in the Air have large corporations as their main protagonists. Each of these corporations is portrayed as distant and as societally and environmentally oblivious. If this represents the public perception of corporations, and I think it does, we have a long way to go.

Authenticity is key to trust. We judge whether a person is authentic by the consistency with which they apply their values. I imagine people judge corporations in the same way.

So if we express our values through our community investment, then to substantiate our authenticity, we need to be consistent in applying those values to our core business; our products, our employees, our customers and our public voice as expressed in our brands, advertising and lobbying. My challenge is to the CR practitioner, myself included, is to increase the proportion of time spent in the core business.

I also see a key role for community investment, not just as an end in itself but as a means to increasing sensitivity and awareness amongst our employees that they can take back and incorporate into their jobs. Volunteering is especially important from this perspective. But beware, community investment can undermine authenticity if we do not follow through and apply the same values in our core business.

Lastly, I see a role for social networking to bridge that perceived distance between the company and the stakeholders. Frank and engaging exchanges with corporate executives, as demonstrated by Bill Marriott of Marriott and by Tom Glocer of Thomson Reuters, and with our employees, can be one of the best ways to demonstrate authenticity and to bridge the perceived distance between the stakeholder and the corporation.

Please let me know what you think of these ideas.

© 2010, Kevin_Moss. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Kevin_Moss (8 Articles)

Kevin Moss, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at BT Americas, has a passion for identifying and leveraging the intersection between the principles of sustainability and the business mission to deliver value to stakeholders. He has responsibility for implementation of BT's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy in North America, and strives to be a catalyst to help the company and their customers move forward on all aspects of sustainability. Kevin is the author of the blog, CRS Perspectives and has authored the Four Dimensions of Sustainability, as a straightforward framework to analyze an organization’s sustainability strategy through any of these lenses. Kevin also has experience working in the local US telecommunications environment. He previously oversaw voice and data product management for BT Americas, including product strategy, new product development and geographic expansion across systems, networks, operations and channels. He spent two years working at MCI following the passing of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, where he helped build local services, negotiated partner agreements and represented the company before state regulators. A British national, Kevin began his career in telecommunications in an international marketing role for BT in the UK.