Why Disney’s Corporate Social Responsibility Decision Will Pay Big Dividends for the Disney Brand

Marcus Starke

For many companies, corporate social responsibility (CSR) remains more of an “obligation” than an actual business practice.

Some companies avoid full commitment to CSR because they view it as an additional cost or investment of money, resources and/or personnel that will detract from their business.

I believe that corporate social responsibility, when implemented as part of an organization’s overall strategy, can build a brand and build a business.

A case in point is the decision by the Walt Disney Company to take a stand on childhood obesity.  They have adopted strict standards on food advertising aimed at children on Disney-owned television channels, radio stations and websites.

This far-reaching policy will have an obvious impact on Disney’s bottom line, but I believe the short-term pain will produce long-term gain.

First, it enables Disney to take a leadership role on a crucial issue: childhood obesity and healthy nutrition. Based on the amount of media coverage their announcement receives, Disney is able to take an ownership stake in the issue as well.

As the New York Times noted, Disney “may lose some advertising dollars in the beginning, but believe that appealing to parents with healthier food is ‘smart business.’ The company’s move could put pressure on other child-oriented networks to do the same and could push food companies and fast-food chains to reformulate products so that they can keep advertising with Disney. If that happens, the marketing game will be doing some good by giving consumers healthier choices.” You can read more from the article by clicking this link: http://r-i.co/3A.

Second, this CSR decision clearly communicates and affirms Disney’s values and priorities as an organization.

  • Their commitment to this policy “humanizes” its brand and will build even greater customer trust and loyalty.
  • Disney is not just saying it is a company that truly cares about the well-being of its customers (children, parents and families); they are backing it up with real actions.

Corporate Social Responsibility can enhance a brand in a dramatic way because it allows a company to tell its customers “this is who we are, this is what we believe in, and we are committed to conducting business in the most responsible manner possible.” In my view, the main reason why CSR hasn’t picked up more is because companies have not yet understood that it actually makes good business sense.

Disney Chairman Bob Iger said he felt strongly that companies in a position to help address childhood obesity should do that, but he added, “This is not altruistic. This is about smart business.”

When CSR is thoughtfully integrated as part of a company’s strategy, it pays out on the bottom line. It is the only way to be sustainable in the long-term in every aspect, especially the social one.

What do you think it will take to convince more executives about the importance of corporate social responsibility in their brand-building and business strategy?

Takeaway for marketers:

Do not let “CSR” remain just an acronym in your company’s vocabulary. CSR is not a cost; it’s an investment that will build your brand and distinguish you from your competitors.