Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be defined as a strategy which aims to improve changes business makes on the society. This and other definitions like it make sense, but lack the connection to the most important aspect of business – the customer. Since CSR is not explained as important to customers, it is seen as less relevant than other customer related strategies.
Brand Equity Management (BEM) point of view of CSR connects it to the customer. BEM defines social responsibility as a value offered to a customer. This means that a brand allows its customers to feel socially responsible by purchasing its products. This point of view is more business oriented and more powerful.
BEM / Customer point of view
If I buy Nike running shoes while I believe they are made in a sweatshop, I made a decision to not be socially responsible. Nike running shoes offer following values to me: quality/price ratio and social positioning (identity, design, and aesthetics). But they do not give me the value of being socially responsible. By buying Nike running shoes I believe that I contributed to socially damaging act. We can say that Nike has deprived me as a customer from that value.
As a customer I have a need to be socially responsible. Social responsibility can be given to me as a value offered by a brand. Social responsibility is a value to the customers because we want it. It might not be the same priority for all the customers, but everybody has a need for it.
CSR as an example of internal point of view
CSR, as explained above, suffers from a bad definition. It is usually explained as an internal activity disconnected from customers. Social responsibility is one of the top values craved by customers. The problem with such definitions is that they do not include the customer. As soon as the customer is added to the definitions, they become clearer and more engaging. Goal of BEM is to connect all business aspects to the customer.