PR as a social function
We live in an era of giant business firms, manufacturing organizations and industrial or post-industrial institutions whose managers have special social responsibilities. As Peter F Drucker (1974), market guru, has observed a healthy business and a sick society are hardly compatible…the health of the community is a prerequisite for successful growth in business.’ A business will only be able to gain its true purpose if it is identifying the social skills together with the efforts of all key stakeholders with an equal view of the future. There are many factors a corporate organization takes care on daily basis, it always is driven by the ethics and values that they uphold and follow. A free corporate enterprise is not free since it has to be an accountable enterprise – accountable in the sense not only in their management but to the society. Private corporations certainly have a duty and responsibility for the welfare of the society where they operate their business and industry. Profit is a sine qua non for all business enterprises, be it public sector or private sector, or semi-government model. But no business model should exist only for profit.
India as a country, on one hand, it is a rich, technologically advanced nation with a few billionaires and many millionaires; on the other hand, it is a country with a huge mass of illiterate, poor and unhealthy people. As the riding forces of our country can the business corporate industry do something about it. Can the public and private sector PR do something about it? Despite all these developments and growth, we must admit that India as a nation, has a big PR problem. When the science and technology industry in our country seems to gallop like a racehorse while our sociology is limping like a wounded donkey with a heavy burden of the past on its back.
Since modern PR is a branch of management, people normally think that they have to operate public relations only in the business level or corporate environment to get attention, gain goodwill, communicate or propagate certain ideas related to the company that they represent. But historically the idea of PR was always about human relations. PR therefore must be given special consideration to the political, socio-economic, and cultural aspects of society.
ESG- stands for Environmental, society and governance, ESG at the level of corporate essentially reflects companies attempts to integrate environmental and social issues into the way they do business, into their business model and strategy. That is why having a clear identity and corporate purpose makes it easier for companies to deliver goals based on values and norms both profiting for within the company and among the public. ESG investing has its origin from a 2004 letter coined by the former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He wrote to fifty-five CEO’s of the world’s leading financial institutions inviting them to participate in an initiative that would bridge the gap between investors and important environmental, social and governance issues.
But how many companies genuinely work for this cause today? How many brands stand true to their corporate purpose and values? Today audiences are indeed bombarded with unreliable values and often misguided with bogus and unrealistic brand opinions. Brand Virtue signalling is constantly used by several global brands to represent their pseudo brand purpose. It occurs when a brand purposely signalling their values without bringing the action to live by those. Consumers and market analysts equally say it is difficult to know which brands truly meet higher ethical standards while greenwashing continues an industry-wide concern. If any of them do genuinely why would these brands disclose their environmental and social footprint?
Some companies indeed use this as a marketing ploy to manipulate the public. Companies make great promises to become more inclusive and responsible only in front of the eyes of their target group. They try to greenwash the whole actions as more green-friendly company thereby opening more ESG money and improved public standing. The best example was the Volkswagen Carbon Emission Scandal. It was in the year 2015, German Carmakers Volkswagen admitted having installed emissions-cheating devices in their vehicles. The cars were installed with ‘defeat device’ used to bypass a vehicle’s emission control system. It also cost the company to refund over $33 billion in vehicle refits and regulatory fines. It also created a public image in the minds of people that they were paying for a green vehicle that was not green. Some companies disclose information just for the sake of disclosing it. The major reason is that, so far there has not been a lot of accountability in terms of stated goals and corporate purpose versus practical progress towards these goals.
PR in India, therefore, must be viewed not simply as a management tool but as a social function. Private or public organizations, PR professionals must have to explore how public relations as a management tool can motivate entrepreneurs and senior executives to uphold some basic social responsibilities to enhance the living and working conditions of the large majority of the nation’s people. Corporations are the leaders in the new era and PR professionals are the guiders or the conscience keepers of each brand. Corporations have new tasks and responsibilities and Public Relations has to pursue them for the benefit not only of their companies profit, clients and for other stakeholders but also of the general public, the ordinary citizens who can become valuable customers.
This blog post originally appeared on Vani Krishna’s blog: vaanikrishna.wordpress.com
Vani is a part of the Class of 2021 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe Mumbai. She pursued her bachelor’s degree from Mangalore University. She is passionate about Sports and Arts. She has done an internship in a Kerala based PR firm Davidson PR & Communications, and with the Department of Information and Public Relations- (I&PRD) Kerala Government. She can be reached at @VK_thefernweh on Twitter, and as Vani Krishna on LinkedIn.