Corporate Social Response: the new CSR

Fenton recently hosted Hailey Cavill-Jaspers of Cavill + Co for the launch of her new book – Talking the Walk® 2.

For more than 20 years, Hailey has advised numerous corporates on CSR and Social Good strategy, partnerships and communication.

In that time, she has built 50 cause-corporate partnerships that have injected $40m into the charity sector – including enduring partnerships for Disney, Mondelez and SEEK.

Joined by members of Melbourne’s agency and corporate communities, Hailey discussed her latest book, and the need for business to move beyond Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Response.

Overwhelming evidence confirms that consumer trust in business is declining rapidly as a result of an awakening that’s taken hold in recent years. The balance of power has irreversibly shifted, for good.

Armed with technology and instant access to information, consumers now have three ‘waves’ that are collectively causing a tsunami for businesses:

  • The conscious consumer wave: with belief-based buying and the ability to boycott companies (one in five Australians actively boycotted a company behaving badly in 2018, while one in five also actively supported a company or brand that was demonstrably practicing good behaviour)
  • The communication wave: empowered by social media and the ability for consumers to control and spread messaging from companies and brands
  • The peopleism wave: with trust in institutions collapsing, workers embracing the gig and sharing economies, and social movements (for example, #metoo) gaining global momentum, people are taking power back

This growing critical mass of consumers are increasingly concerned by the ethics (and transparency) of business, along with their impact on the environment and society.

Australians are aligning their consumer choices with their values, and as employees are seeking organisations that actively demonstrate purpose and meaning beyond profit.

More importantly, they believe it is companies that have the power and resources to tackle societal issues – not government. In Hailey’s words, it’s time for business to act and move from Corporate Social Responsibility to a Corporate Social Response.

Without it, Hailey believes that businesses will become irrelevant or obsolete in the near future as these empowered consumers go elsewhere or create disruptive competitors. As proof of this, there are now approximately 200,000 social enterprises in Australia alone.

How, then, can a business address its social response and communicate it effectively?

Hailey believes that most CSR and Social Good communication is falling flat, especially among millennials. 

Her latest book highlights 10 key considerations to ensure that a company’s Corporate Social Response is communicated effectively and strikes a chord among its staff and customers:

  1. Don’t write crap – keep it simple, avoid jargon, and be transparent
  2. Be a force for good – consumers feel let down by institutions and are looking to businesses to play an active and positive role in society
  3. Tell your CSR story ­– explain your journey authentically, including the ups and downs
  4. Be human ­– consumers want companies to embrace their imperfections, stand for something, and reveal their human side
  5. Have a visible CEO – employees and customers need to see your leader(s) telling the story
  6. Cut through with visuals – attention is fleeting, so keep your content brief and visually appealing by using infographics and video
  7. Do what’s right – it’s time to go beyond regulatory obligations, to doing what’s right (and ensuring it’s a strategic fit for your company)
  8. Engage employees fully – they are possibly the most important communication channel you have (yet they are often the last to hear)
  9. Make climate a priority – address your environmental footprint and don’t greenwash
  10. Be brave, step up – if you haven’t already, it’s time to start

Hailey’s message is clear – a tsunami is coming and it will reshape the business landscape like never before. It’s time to act and communicate. 

For more about Talking the Walk® 2 and the move from Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Response, visit

By Jamie Garantziotis