Huh! What's the difference? That's what I thought when I heard about research done by social psychologists out of Stanford about the effects that a slight change of wording had on voting behaviors, a personal form of social responsibility.
In a survey, half of the group were asked whether it was "important to vote" versus the other half which were asked whether it was "important to be a voter". The group asked about being a voter, voted in a following election almost 30% more than the other group. The conclusion the researchers made was that a simple change in wording helps increase the voter's self concept, or as they suggested vanity, which led to an increase in that positive behavior.
Might the issue of self concept apply to businesses also? Plenty of companies might answer that, yes, it is important to be socially responsible. But is it more effective for a business to think of themselves as a socially responsible company? Look at how Indira Nooyi: CEO of Pepsi in a video clip from a former post defines PepsiCo: "I want Pepsi to viewed as a socially responsible business."
Sounds like playing with semantics, and yet think about it. This sounds more like pride and commitment than just vanity, and that commitment implies that social responsibility permeates through every strategic decision. Being thought of as a socially responsible company also brings about value to the company: values that permeate the culture; a great emplyee hiring and development tool (especially through volunteering); and a marketing advantage with customers who prefer to buy from socially responsible businesses.
I encourage companies to engage in social responsibility in any way they can, either through their community involvement, philanthropy, or through environmentally sustainable practices. Every little bit matters.
But choosing to be a socially responsible company throughout sets the bar to a greater height and creates value for the companies and their communities. What a slight change in wording can do!