Doing good is good for business – Islander pens book on social responsibility for corporations

By Mary L. Grady

  • Monday, November 24, 2008 8:03pm
  • Business

By Mary L. Grady

To Islander Nancy Lee, the phrase, “corporate social responsibility” is not just another example of corporate-speak; not another metaphor to justify a way businesses and corporations reach revenue goals. It is a way to do good that benefits everyone — community and client, business and shareholder.

Lee, and Philip Kotler of Northwestern University, have written a new book called “Corporate Social Responsibility.” A business marketing specialist, Lee is also an adjunct professor at both Seattle University and the University of Washington where she has been a guest lecturer and instructor at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.

The book, published in January, is meant to be a roadmap and guide for any company or organization trying to serve their community in a way that makes sense for them.

The authors refer to it in the book as “doing well and doing good.”

Examples on Mercer Island abound. Realtors plant flowers, local businessmen advocate for cancer awareness, grocery stores and restaurants donate food for community gatherings, and book sellers offer storytime for tots. A local insurance company steps up to sponsor local events. Firefighters hold chili feeds and safety days for the community. Churches and synagogues reach out to families and the poor. The Chamber of Commerce encourages art; the library, literacy; veterans advocate for soldiers.

Intuitively, it makes sense for service clubs, public safety and nonprofit organizations to find ways to serve the community. But, it is a still a relatively new phenomenon for business to pitch in. It is more than just writing a check.

The authors recognize most who pick up the book will be employed as community relations or marketing professionals. The book will help those looking for a way their company can reach out that makes sense for their organization.

It is simply in the best interest of business to do social marketing, Lee explained. And not only to make people feel good about their company and buy their products. Such programs create positive behavioral changes to benefit both the corporation and community.

In the book, examples of businesses engaged in community causes include corporate giants such as Wal Mart, General Mills and Microsoft.

Government agencies also engage in social marketing. In our state, the department of health and the department of transportation, for example have conducted campaigns advocating seat belt use, protecting salmon and promoting immunizations for children.

A campaign Lee designed for Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, to encourage the use of life jackets for children, was successful in reducing drowning deaths, she said.

“Changing behavior such as having kids wear life jackets, can reduce hospital admissions, insurance claims, and most importantly, reduce the number of deaths,” Lee said.

Lee, who holds a MBA from the University of Puget Sound, found her niche combining business with social causes during a class.

“The teacher told us: `Write down what you want to be able to say about your life when you are 83,”’ she remembered.

“I wrote that I wanted to be a marketer, a good marketer, and that I had contributed to quality of life,” she said.

And she has been busy. She conducts training and workshops, teaches, and consulted for 100 corporations and non-profits. She travels extensively to conduct workshops and has written books and articles for academic publications.

Lee has lived on the Island with her husband Terry since 1976. They have two grown children who graduated from Mercer Island High School and a couple of grandchildren. Between her work and travels, Lee works in her garden designed by her mother and walks her dog, Happy.

She is passionate about serving the community and her clients.

And she knows that people will buy products from companies that care.

A business survey conducted in 2002 showed that people would be likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause if price and quality were equal.

The book is available at most bookstores or on line.

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