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Apple Corporate Social Responsibility: Seven lessons for CSR professionals

Peter Truesdale, OBE

They gave this job to me because I am the only person in the office that can remember when Lily the Pink was the Christmas top of the charts. They thought: “He’ll never be able to deal with up to the minute ultra-cool Apple Corporate Social Responsibility.”

But I can. Here goes. Here are seven lessons for CSR professionals.

First don’t go to look at Apple’s Environmental and Supplier Responsibility pages on your laptop. Do it through your iPhone.

And guess what? It works.

No strange contortions. No bits off the side of the screen.

It’s brand perfect. Same font. Same look. Same cool feeling.

And cool, cool, cool is hot, hot, hot.

Perfect continuity between content and consumer-base.

Lesson One: Change with the times. Migrate to the media your consumers are using.

Lesson Two: Your Corporate Social Responsibility is an extension of your branding. Prove that by how you present it.

Apple’s written English is near perfect. 95% of the reporting is done through short sentences, simple words and no needless adjectives and adverbs.

It’s readable.

And great headlines: Forests give us so much. We need to return the favor (I hear you. You’re chilled.  You’re caring.)

Lesson Three: Readable. How many CSR reports can you say that about? Your own?  Really?

Apple shares loads of information in a good way: clear, crisp description to start with, then facts and numbers for sad, CSR super-nerds.

Lesson Four: CSR reporters, you can have it all. You can have a readable report. You can have a fact-packed report. You just need to plan it out carefully.

OK then Oldie: Is there a downside?

Yes. Apple’s main strength is also its weakness. The reporting has focus.  The focus is upon Apple.

The story lacks context.  We don’t get much of a sense of the world or the industry that Apple operates in.  That means the reporting has a bit of a me-centred feel to it.

Lesson Five: No matter how great your programme is, your reporting has to set out the context you operate in to make any sense.

Apple’s reporting has little to say about stakeholders or materiality.

I don’t demand another materiality matrix. I don’t feel the lack of a gallery of rent-a-quotes from friendly stakeholders. I do want to be clear what Apple thinks is important and why.

Lesson Six: Don’t assume the reader will automatically get what you think is important and whose views you care about.

Now the acme of my grumpy-Grandad grumblings: Apple has no report.

Apple has an Overview for Apple and the Environment.

It has an Overview for Recycling. It has an Overview about Working for Apple. And Supplier Responsibility.

It has no Overview for Corporate Social Responsibility. Lacking a single coherent statement means Apple loses out. It is punching below its weight.

Lesson Seven:  No matter how groovy, interactive, video-enabled, newsfeed assisted, Facebook accessible, Tweet-generating your CSR reporting is, without a single coherent statement of your CSR you are punching below your weight.

So good Apple or bad Apple?

Overall: good Apple.

Apple’s strengths are distinctive. Its weaknesses are replicated by many.

So I’ve cracked that one. I’ll just go and put my 45 rpm of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da on the radiogram.

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