The phenomenon of CSR light companies

“The majority of firm´s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities are just marketing strategies and PR” says Karsten Killian, brand consultant of “”.

Therefore, a new form of CSR established: the CSR light company.

But what does this term mean exactly?
And what do other professionals say about this new phenomenon?
Fastexposure will figure it out!

Characteristics of a CSR light enterprise

Due to Colin Crooks, entrepreneur of social enterprises, many companies are not able to invest in an ethical supply chain. This means that CSR activities are neglected because the company has to reduce its cost. Therefore, the firm establishes CSR light activities. But how can I expose such a company? Karsten Killian collected the following main characteristics which are typical for CSR light companies.

Companies donate 1-2% of their sales volume

From a CSR light company´s point of view, it is much more effective to donate this relatively small amount to a social organization instead of practicing real CSR activities. This is because the firm additionally invests in expensive marketing campaigns to publish this donation. Therefore, the so called “Green washing”-activist seems to act responsibly and in accordance with CSR. An additional advantage is that the firm can deduct these donations from its taxes (in Germany).

Favored donees of CSR light companies

Typically, those enterprises donate money to organizations with a very popular brand name. Examples are WWF, Unicef and Rainforest Alliance. Of course, those nongovernmental organizations do support protecting the environment or helping poor people. But they are chosen to be the donee because of their good reputation. Therefore, it is easier for the marketing department to promote a donation because these organizations are well-known everywhere.

“Ethical Branding”

CSR light companies invest lots of money in marketing campaigns to reveal them as an environmental friendly firm. Therefore, a new marketing department called “ethical branding” was introduced which is one of the most rising division. The German business consultancy “Ketchum Pleon” emphasizes that social commitment is realized by marketing campaigns primarily.

Which companies practice CSR light activities?

There are lots of enterprises which are known as CSR light companies. That means that they contain at least one of the characters I already mentioned.

For example, companies like Haribo, Volvic and Krombacher are typical CSR-light-firms with regards to donating money to well-known social organizations. I guess you already got to know this advertisement of the last mentioned company.

In the video, Krombacher emphasizes the environmental friendly activities of company and that it is in line with the nature. The firm emphasizes that it advocates especially the security of the rainforest against deforestation. However, proved is that Krombacher supports the environment protection only every few month.

Another typical trait of CSR light companies is that they market advertising slogans very cleverly, especially presented by famous people (like Günther Jauch in this case).

Because of this, slogans like “Ein Kasten Krombacher gleich ein Quadratmeter geschützter Regenwald” (A crate of beer equals a square meter of protected rain forests) are easy to remember and suggest that the company is a “CSR heavyweight”.

Moreover, enterprises like “blend-a-med” and “Pampers” also donate 1-2% of their sales volume to well-known organizations. “Gardena” donated 1€ of every sold water pump to “Unicef” which are equal with these percentages.

Of course, projects to donate money to a nongovernmental organization are appreciated because those activities are important and trend-setting.

However, “those projects do not give information about the actual sustainability of a company” criticizes Heike Leitschuh, specialized journalist of business and economy. Therefore, she continues, that “the CSR concept cannot be realized at all by those CSR light companies”.

Another company which is ranked among being CSR light is the oil company “BP”. With the help of expensive marketing campaigns, the enterprise is suggestive of establishing renewable energy as the core area of its business. In fact, those renewable energies are less than 5% of BP´s whole production. Additionally, defective pipe lines and neglected safety measures in general lead to various environmental disasters, which are inconsistent with the assumed environmental friendly image of BP.

What do professionals say about the future of CSR (light) companies?

“The society and companies shouldn´t ignore or criticize CSR at all” says Heike Leitschuh. “It is very important to sustain the environment and establish human rights. CSR means that companies have to act in accordance with sustainable economic activities to achieve social and ecological goals. CSR light projects and image campaigns do not help to realize those targets.”

Karsten Killian agrees with Leitschuh´s point of view and adds:

“It would be nice if CSR light companies would take a step forward and act sustainable at all. Those enterprises should learn a lesson from firms which already established real CSR activities.”

But which companies are ranked among being a “CSR heavyweight”?
I will figure this out next Wednesday!   


About Lilly

Hei! Moi! Terve! My name is Lilly and I am a German business student spending two semesters abroad in Helsinki, Finland. I already felt in love with my new home in August, but now I decided to share my experiences with you. My aim is to give you an understanding of Finland itself, its culture as well as some advices at first hand; but hopefully, you are also convinced to get your own impressions visiting this breathtaking country at least once in your life. Tervetuloa!
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6 Responses to The phenomenon of CSR light companies

  1. Jim Durre says:

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

  2. katharinakueppers says:

    Hey Lilmeu,
    I think it is a very good idea for better understanding to highlight the keywords in a post, but unfortunately that makes it seem a little messy to me. I mean your post is well structured, so why make it seem chaotic in your attempt to make the core words a little more visible?
    All in all you gave a nice overview about ‘CSR light’, and I’m looking forward to reading about your announced next topic ‘CSR heavyweight’. I’m curious about how to differentiate between a ‘light’ and a ‘heavyweight’ company.
    I hope you will tell us more about that.

  3. Mai says:

    Hi Lilmeu,
    interesting topic you are writing about, I guess almost everybody is aware of these CSR light companies, but nobody is addressing them clearly. Also, good that you mentioned some examples of CSR light companies.
    What I am curious about: Everybody is aware of the fact that CSR light companies should change and say that they should act in accordance with the standards. But nobody is providing solutions to this problem. How are they going to change if there are no incentives to do so? It seems that light CSR is a big benefit for a company, so why not do so, right? Maybe you can provide more information on this in one of your following posts.

  4. Nicpic says:

    Hi Lilmeu,
    very interesting post! CSR is a very relevant topic for all of us, especially since it might be our generation creating value for it in the future. Again like in your previous posts I think it’s great that you try and introduce some humor through the pictures. The length and volume of your post is very agreeable and keeps you interested. Furthermore I think it was a nice idea to split the topic into two posts and introduce the next topic at the end of your post. This way you encourage more people to continue reading your posts.
    However I have to agree with Katharina, you use too much bold and underlined. Why not simply let wordpress structure it for you like Dr.B! suggested. That way it will look clearer and smoother. For example underlining, and putting your subheads in bold and centered is simply overkill! If they’re the characteristics why not just making a numbered list?
    Additionally you have to be careful to use the right words for the right context “Due” can be translated with “because of” I think what you are looking for right in the beginning is “according to”. Moreover your video is of a mediocre quality, I would suggest searching for a better one next time. Since Krombach is such a huge company I’m sure you’ll find one if you try!
    If your interested in this topic this post by Rose might interest you.
    All in all great work and I’m excited to find out more about this topic on Wednesday!

  5. Pingback: “Deep CSR companies do exist” « fastexposure

  6. Pingback: The “CSR double life” of Deichmann « fastexposure

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