The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strategic CSR - Home Depot

In the absence of regulated standards in many areas of CSR-related products, the article in the url link below describes the steps firms are taking to ensure their progress on this issue is not lost on their customers (Issues: Advertising, p151; Brands, p153):

“It's all part of a new trend spinning out from the current wave of eco-chic. Perhaps taking a cue from the U.S. Agriculture Dept.'s eye-catching, consumer-friendly, official labels for organic food, increasing numbers of non-food related stores and brands are introducing official-looking symbols and signs to promote their products. Their strategy is clear: To market their eco-friendliness, and to quickly and effectively communicate how socially responsible they are.”

Home Depot’s new “earth-friendly products” icon is below as an example:

“Already, the label is associated with more than 2,500 products, ranging from compact fluorescent light bulbs to organic plants in biodegradable pots. Many, but not all, are verified by Scientific Certification Systems, an independent standards development and certification company.”

The sudden increase in various forms of environmental and social responsibility-type labels is designed to benefit from a growing consumer market:

“Each of these companies are looking to tap the growing numbers of socially responsible consumers. They have realized the power that the nearly five-year-old, USDA organic label wields among customers (products bearing the "organic" label represented a healthy $14.6 billion in total annual U.S. sales in 2005, the latest figures available from industry group Organic Trade Assn., up 17% from the year before).”

The problem, of course, is that the increased variety of symbols, marks, and icons, not to mention the huge variance in standards that underpin what is deemed to be ‘sustainable,’ ‘ethical,’ or ‘responsible,’ leads to further confusion. More important is the potential for abuse of consumer interest in CSR and products that support a responsible and sustainable business model, and also the dilution of meaning of what official labels (where they exist) mean over time:

“… while graphic designers, brand strategists, and consumer advocates alike agree that a proliferation of socially responsible corporations is healthy news for the environment, they're also cautioning that shoppers be wary or at least well-informed of the claims that each new, brand-specific eco-label conveys.”

Take care

Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006

Business Week Online
Insider Newsletter
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Retailers and manufacturers of non-food items are creating their own seals of approval for earth-friendly goods
by Reena Jana
Marketing May 2, 2007