March 20 (2:05PM) - 24 (2:05PM), 2024

Currents in Promoting CSR, DEI and ESG Strategies: The Promise and Peril of Doing Good -- A Case Study Approach

Interest Group: Short Course
This workshop focuses on introducing participants to contemporary challenges in developing and in teaching corporate social responsibility; diversity, equity and inclusion; and environmental, social and governance initiatives. Increasingly, companies of all sizes are embracing the philosophy that "business for good is good for business," indicating that an organization's social impact strategy plays a critical role in championing stakeholder engagement and in protecting and promoting corporate and/or brand reputation. At the same time, and increasingly, critics denounce and/or dismiss CSR, DEI and ESG strategies as "trust washing," "purpose washing" or "woke capitalism." While social impact initiatives always have had critics, these initiatives are increasingly scrutinized-and by increasingly vocal critics.

Rationale: Increasingly an organization's integrated marketing communication and/or public relations programming is being orchestrated around CSR, DEI and ESG initiatives.
• Corporate social responsibility refers to the concept that businesses should operate in a socially responsible manner, holding themselves accountable to publics beyond their stakeholders.
• Diversity, equity and inclusion outlines an organization's policies, practices and procedures for creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment for marginalized populations.
• Environmental, social and governance is an investment strategy that suggests that investors should look beyond a company's bottom line when investing and take into account other criteria, such as its environmental impact and approach to social issues. While the term is often used in the investment community, it may also help stakeholders understand how a company approaches risks and opportunities related to environmental, social and governance issues.

Individually, and taken together, CSR, ESG and DEI intersect with and may become the focal point of integrated marketing communication and/or public relations practice. Each of these practices historically were developed-and continue to evolve-with the promise of "doing good" for the individuals an organization is meant to serve. Yet creating and promoting social impact initiatives can be fraught with unique challenges and complexities, born of today's moment.

Practitioners may be called upon to develop and promote social impact programming-and they may be called upon to defend (or to evolve) such programming when criticized. This workshop seeks to ground participants in challenges unique to the current moment, along with knowledge and tools, to prepare students to approach social impact programming from an informed and critical perspective.

This workshop will provide communication instructors insight into the forces that have created contemporary challenges in developing and executing social impact initiatives, tools for more fully teaching those initiatives, and best (and worst) practice case studies that incorporate CSR, DEI and ESG programming. With high profile news outlets, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, raising criticisms of social impact programming, this workshop will seek to answer the question "when, why and how does doing good become so bad?"

Students seek courses that provide practical knowledge and skill development, and they are increasingly aware of the reputational issues surrounding their preferred brands. While traditional communication instructors share that awareness, they may not have the background, insight or ability to teach students the contemporary challenges that accompany CSR, DEI and ESG programming. This workshop seeks to ground participants in contemporary challenges (and best practices), while ultimately giving their students the tools and knowledge needed to approach social impact programming from an informed and critical standpoint. Through a case-study approach, this workshop will equip participants with the content needed to understand why, in today's moment, some companies are criticized and how others withstand the criticism.

Participants will: learn the historical forces that catalyzed the practice of CSR, DEI and ESG programming; learn contemporary issues facing CSR, DEI and ESG practices individually and collectively; be able to teach these concepts as part of a course in applied social influence; obtain case studies, templates and assignments for use in their courses; and become familiar with communication industry terms, best practices and topics.


Allison Peiritsch, Slippery Rock University


Thomas Richard Flynn, Slippery Rock University

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