Extraordinary times make corporate social responsibility (CSR) more relevant than ever. People are longing for positive stories but only if the activities match a company’s values does CSR come across as being authentic – and convincing.
Corporate social responsibility is all about companies being responsible and giving back to society by committing to a wide range of different initiatives. Activities can range from financial donations, fundraising, the sponsoring of worthy causes, charitable events and educational initiatives. The actual implementation of CSR projects is just as crucial as the communications of the commitment made. Hinnerbäcker, a medium-sized German chain of bakeries in the state of Hesse, relies on ITMSs extensive experience to achieve a far-reaching CSR strategy that gets all the aspects right.
Founded in 1854 and rooted in the Wetterau region, the family-run traditional bakery chain operates more than 70 stores, stretching from Frankfurt to Butzbach. Three generations work hand-in-hand in running the business and keeping the traditions alive to uphold the standards of the family’s famous baking tradition. Family and the region are the supporting pillars of Hinnerbäcker’s identity.
In view of this entrepreneurial orientation and difficult times of COVID-19, it is only natural that Hinnerbäcker should readily support the Bad Nauheim ice hockey club. It too has strong small-town and historical roots and is an important entity in the community. Having to play its games in an empty stadium, the club’s DEL2 team is forced to forego its biggest revenue source this season. “Despite the challenging times, EC Bad Nauheim achieves a positive environment, creating and upholding optimism across the entire region,” says Kai Steinhauer, Chairman of the Hinnerbäcker Management Board. “We are happy to recognize and honor their contribution to our community.”
Hinnerbäcker also provides financial support to the Wetterau Women’s Shelter and the AtemZeit childcare service: both organizations have regional roots and dedicate themselves to upholding family values. By supporting food banks, Hinnerbäcker furthermore stands up to food waste – a position that is perfectly suited to the values and perception of a traditional bakery.
In line with its company’s values, Hinnerbäcker authenticates its commitment to its locality by supporting regional projects, family support programs, and initiatives that positively impact the community. A coherent orientation that fits the company’s strategy and vision perfectly and also provides added emotional value for the traditional bakery.
Effective communications and engagement are an essential part of both developing and implementing a CSR strategy, which also impacts the organization’s culture.
Everyone benefits from convincing CSR: Hinnerbäcker, yes, but also the institutions like the Bad Nauheim hockey club and the Women’s Shelter Wetterau, who not only welcome the financial assistance but also the positive media exposure which attracts more attention to their causes. However, turning the news into self-promotion has a lot of dangers. People tend to suspect that companies communicate opportunistically when it comes to their CSR commitments and excessively pushing CSR-related communications messages can foment mistrust and foster indifference.
Successful communications require an understanding of the issues, their impact on stakeholders and the concerns that interest groups may have. An essential factor are factual communications without exaggeration or boasting.
The credibility of CSR statements is just as relevant a topic as the media used for the communications: As a traditional baker, Hinnerbäcker has a very broad customer base and deliberately relies on traditional media such as daily newspapers and city magazines to reach a large part of its target audience. This does not mean that Hinnerbäcker is not active on social media: On the contrary, the company proactively uses Instagram and Facebook to engage in conversation with its younger and social media-avid customers.
Communicating CSR on social media requires an interactive approach. It is necessary to move from monologues to dialogues and go one step further by discussing the CSR activities with customers and followers. The dialogue must be ethical, honest and direct in terms of transparency, as well as authenticity. For Hinnerbäcker, announcing their support of EC Bad Nauheim on the hockey club’s fan pages on the social networks proved very effective in discussing important issues that helped influence a positive perception of the company and its activities.
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Photos © Florian Dehn, Butzbach (email@example.com)