Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often criticised for being a ‘greenwash’ publicity stunt that is all about corporate image and less about social responsibility. However, there certainly are examples of companies taking on issues that are not ‘image safe’ but are socially important. Richard Branson’s advocacy over the last year is a brilliant case in point. Branson has recently come out as a champion for employing ex-offenders. Better yet, he is not only advocating for other companies to do so, Virgin has been employing ex-offenders for the last two years. Branson argues that ‘everyone deserves a second chance,’ noting in a Guardian interview that:
‘For people coming out of prison it’s a vicious circle. If they can’t get a job, the only thing they can do is reoffend. From society’s point of view that can be very painful.’
This comes after Branson joined the board of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which earlier this year released a report that recommended drug decriminalisation, declaring that:
“the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Branson’s copped flack for both causes, but he may be paving the way for a new wave of CSR – one that takes on the tough issues. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the causes, Branson certainly appears to and is championing them without regard to their ability to produce another CSR ‘glossy’.
Do you think that Branson’s advocacy is a different take on CSR or more of the same?