Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a notion that is becoming increasingly important in corporate boardrooms, business press and academia. CSR affects companies in most markets through increased legal and societal requirements on their ethicality1, on a national as well as on an EU- and international level2. A number of reasons explain why companies are engaging in CSR ranging from moral obligation to brand and legitimacy. In either case, it is no longer possible for companies to save on social and environmental activities as a way of staying competitive.
Companies need to find the key to gaining a competitive advantage and part of this involves integrating their CSR into their operations and all business practices. There is a wide and complex range of issues surrounding CSR and the conflicting opinions on the topic make it difficult for companies to know what should be done and how. Understanding the inner workings of a successful example of CSR work could be a useful tool for companies wishing to improve their economic and environmental sustainability.
The Swedish furniture giant IKEA, a value-based service company, has received wide acclaim for its CSR work both in Sweden and abroad.3 What is striking about IKEA is that the company, despite its openly aggressive focus on cutting costs, is a leading company when it comes to CSR issues. IKEA has managed to combine a cost focus with CSR issues, which is interesting as many companies such as “The Body Shop”, which have a very CSR-oriented vision, charge a price premium for CSR. IKEA is instead associated with cheap products and so it is interesting to research how this combination is possible and what implications this can have for other companies who wish to integrate CSR into their business practices.
The IKEA CSR experience can perhaps shape the framework and help other companies realise that CSR need not be a cost; it can be a cost-cutter. This is important knowledge as societal expectations increase on companies to be socially responsible. Our aim is therefore to see in which way CSR creates value for the company and in which way it is related to corporate strategy. As communication is the way in which the public finds out about IKEA’s CSR activities, we also want to investigate whether and how CSR is communicated by the company. Through looking at this successful company, we want to gain insight into how a company can use CSR to its maximum potential - by integrating it into its core competence and thus incorporating it in its strategy and furthermore how to reap the potential benefits of CSR communication. Hopefully, by describing the IKEA CSR experience and explaining why it has gone down this route, we can derive suggestions on how other companies can devise a successful CSR strategy.
1 2 3 http://www.va.se/nyheter/2008/06/16/darfor-racker-det-inte-med/. Eberhard-Harribey, L. (2006). http://www.newsdesk.se/view/pressrelease/ikea-favorit-bland-csr-experterna-som-googlar-foer-att-kolla-om- foeretagen-pratar-sanning-183120, http://www.csrwire.com/News/8491.html.