Companies and Social Responsibility: An Interview With Susan McPherson

By Randi Zuckerberg

November 21, 2017 5 min read

When I was introduced to Susan McPherson, I was told she is a "connector." She knows how to get people together, knows how to make lasting connections and urges the importance of networking outside your industry, because you never know!

Those are some of the many reasons I support this woman's work.

Susan McPherson is a serial connector, cause marketer, angel investor and corporate responsibility expert. She is the founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, a communications consultancy focusing on the intersection between brands and social good, providing storytelling, partnership creation and visibility to corporations, non-governmental organizations and social enterprises, including Intel, Girl Rising, IF Hummingbird Foundation, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, Blackbaud and J.C. Penney.

1) What does a corporate social responsibility expert gauge?

CSR experts can consult on a range of activities, from supply chain operations to employee volunteer programs to community impact initiatives. My firm, McPherson Strategies, focuses on helping brands create and promote CSR programs, partnerships and campaigns that engage customers, employees and communities. We work with companies to tell authentic stories about their CSR programs to increase awareness and inspire more positive action.

2) Why is corporate social responsibility so crucial today?

Corporate social responsibility has always been important, and today more than ever. From a business perspective, we're seeing an increase in demand from consumers who want to buy from companies that operate sustainably and responsibly. Consumers want to feel good about the purchases they make, and companies are starting to catch on to that. But beyond that, we've really seen an increase in companies stepping up to the plate and taking a leadership role to solve increasingly urgent challenges and open the door to real honest transparency and engagement.

For example, companies played a major role in the 2015 climate talks in Paris, which is a big change from 10 or 15 years ago, when most corporations didn't want to be involved in conversations concerning the environment. Companies are finally realizing the power they have to amplify and make change — along with the responsibility that comes with it.

3) What companies get it right?

The companies that get it right are the ones that have an authentic desire to make the world a better place. CSR can have positive benefits for the bottom line, but if that's your only motivation, customers will see right through it.

CSR isn't a marketing strategy, but it can certainly help a company in how it's viewed in the world. CSR is about having a real commitment to people, to the planet and to the communities in which your company operates. Companies like Tiffany & Co., Unilever, Nike, Marks and Spencer, and Virgin are setting strong examples here, with in-depth, cohesive and high-impact CSR strategies that align authentically with their brands and products.

4) How can businesses ensure sustainable communication with their customers?

Communication is a critical piece of any corporate social responsibility program. Being transparent and open with customers, employees, shareholders, partners and all other stakeholders is the expectation for companies today. That means owning up when you make a mistake, acknowledging areas of improvement and communicating your CSR goals — and results — regularly and consistently with the public. Many companies do this through an annual report, but you can also use less formal channels — like the company blog, social media platforms, email and newsletters — to keep customers in the loop about sustainability initiatives and results.

5) What can female-run businesses do better for the planet while still creating profits for shareholders and jobs for their community?

There's so much potential. Women can evaluate their supply chain to see whether there are opportunities to increase efficiency while also decreasing costs to the environment. They can look inside the office to determine how employees might create less waste during the day. They can decide to only work with vendors that have a similar commitment to the environment and inclusion that they have. And they can create policies that are beneficial to all employees, like paid parental leave and equal pay for men and women (which will drive increased interest in employment, along with increasing retention).

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a weekly business show on SiriusXM, "Dot Complicated." To find out more about Randi Zuckerberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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