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S P E C I A L R E P O R T : L A T I N A M E R I C A & T H E C A R I B B E A N

communication world ● the magazine for communication management ● may–june 2010


As IABC celebrates its 40th year,
we take a look at what lies ahead
A new side
to CSR
Latin American consumers
are demanding an evolution—
from corporate social responsibility
to socially responsible corporations
by Italo Pizzolante Negrón, Ph.D.

political transfor- zations in Latin America say speed at which news and infor-
mation is taking they are making substantial mation are communicated, in
place in Latin changes to their short-term part through social media. In CEMEX, a worldwide producer
America. Ideolog- business strategies, and 59 per- fact, consumer demands are of cement, ready-mix and aggre-
ical jousting and cent are radically rethinking changing much faster than most gates, has based its corporate
changing doctrines have capi- their long-term plans. companies can react, creating responsibility strategy on creat-
talized on unresolved social In order for a country to a deep breach between a com- ing sustainable value in the more
problems, including gender dis- evolve politically, social struggles pany’s interest and society’s than 50 countries in which it
crimination, child labor and must be treated not from an ide- expectations. This breach is operates. Its success stems from
unfair labor practices, and envi- ological standpoint, but rather even greater among multi- its goal to be the company of
ronmental damage, as well as through a perspective in which national companies, because choice for each of its key stake-
improper corporate governance. revision of the social manage- most try to respond to a specific holders.
In Venezuela, Argentina, Ecua- ment of public and private cor- group with global programs of
dor, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Brazil porations is a priority. There is a social responsibility that are
and elsewhere, meeting these kind of “social warming” taking not adapted to a particular loca-
challenges has become the core place in Latin America that is tion. All of these factors accen-
of government plans. That is affecting the sustainability and tuate a lack of confidence in
changing the relationship reputation of many companies. private enterprises. According
between the state and the private By “social warming” I mean to Latinobarómetro 2009 (an
sector, often resulting in people’s attitudes toward the annual public opinion survey of
increased auditing, regulation many issues listed above: There 19,000 people in 18 countries),
and intervention. For these rea- is a new awareness among Latin only 42 percent of people have
sons, and especially in light of Americans who are determined some or a lot of confidence in
the global recession, it’s not sur- to act in defense of their rights. private enterprises, ranking
prising that KPMG’s November These changes in attitudes are them eighth among 15 institu-
2009 “Out of Adversity” report taking place at an accelerated tions, demanding that corpo-
notes that 61 percent of organi- pace as well, due to the increased rate leaders revise their models Communication World • May–June 2010 35

special report: latin america & the caribbean

of management and create a demanding an evolution from new realities and to the current
shared perspective toward cor- corporate social responsibility to competitive market, in order to
porate social responsibility. socially responsible corpora- take advantage of new oppor-
The United Nations Global tions, asking business leaders to tunities. It is true that all
In fact, consumer Compact and the Global understand CSR not as a way of companies wishing to survive
Reporting Initiative have gener- “compensating” for a company’s competition must be fully com-
demands are changing ated a framework for companies impact but to create truly petent and flexible in order to
that are committed to aligning responsible business processes. A adapt; however, companies that
faster than most compa- their operations and strategies company can become a socially are successful in a sustainable
with important indicators and responsible corporation by way will only be those that move
nies can react, in part universally accepted principles syncing its business goals with further and accept the challenge
for sustainable and responsible the expectations of society. To to model the environment in
due to social media. businesses, including work- do so, strategic communication which they operate. Strategic
place standards, environmental must be used as an important and responsible communication
responsibility and anti-corrup- instrument for institutional is the most important tool for
tion measures. Those that fail to strengthening, guaranteeing the providing the necessary insti-
meet these standards, or to com- coherence and consistency tutional strengthening for all
municate their progress toward between what we say as a com- companies to build long-term
meeting them, are taken off pany and what we do, inside relationships based on trust.
the Global Compact’s list of and out. This way, corporations
participants; in fact, 859 com- can build perceptions that not “Building” trust
panies worldwide were removed only inject more certainty into One example of building this
from the initiative in February business plans, but also facilitate kind of trust comes from
because they failed to report on the accomplishment of the orga- CEMEX, a worldwide producer
their progress. nization’s goals. of cement, ready-mix and aggre-
For example, fair trade initia- For those who are unaware of gates that has based its CSR
tives have become more than the dramatic cultural and polit- strategy on creating sustainable
just a brand to promote more ical change that Latin American value in the more than 50 coun-
equitable trading conditions. society is undergoing, it’s impor- tries in which it operates. Aim-
Rather, fair trade is a way to tant to understand that a com- ing to be the company of choice
connect concerned consumers pany’s performance today must for each of its key stakeholders,
and attentive producers in order go beyond economic factors to CEMEX bases its strategy on
to combat poverty and guar- include new social and environ- three main objectives:
antee sustainable livelihoods. mental dimensions. Today, more 1. Increasing competitiveness—
Though fair trade products are important than producing a improving operational excel-
more expensive, many con- change of culture is creating a lence and efficiency, and fol-
sumers see additional value in culture for change. Only a leader lowing high ethical standards
supporting labor rights of with creative energy and think- to achieve long-term sustain-
banana producers in Peru, pro- ing is capable of finding new able growth
tecting the environment for approximations that guarantee 2. Reducing negative impact—
about the author beekeepers in Chile and business sustainability and a new providing a safe, healthy
Italo Pizzolante Negrón, Ph.D., empowering coffee co-opera- state of awareness that promotes workplace, as well as minimiz-
has more than 30 years of expe- tives in Costa Rica, among other the challenge of a “social model” ing the company’s environ-
rience in strategic communica- issues. Consumers used to be between company-society-gov- mental footprint
tion. He founded the Venezuelan interested in a product; now ernment, taking into considera- 3. Reaching out to key stake-
firm PIZZOLANTE Comunicación they are also concerned about tion all interests at stake. holders—creating long-term
Estratégica in 1976, and is cur- the way it gets to the shelf. Over the years, numerous relationships with these
rently chairman of the board. publications from qualified groups to promote a sustain-
New demands on CSR business schools have invited able construction industry
Latin American consumers are leaders to “adapt” themselves to

36 Communication World • May–June 2010

A model for responsible action
Companies seeking to become more socially ences, and should include concrete and simple
responsible can consider using a “responsible action messages that express a company’s culture, inten-
model”—a management tool that constructs cor- tions, values and long-term vision. A company can
porate reputation, permits institutional strengthen-
ing, and builds trust with all internal and external Skills include verbal and nonverbal skills. Com- become a socially
audiences. The model integrates three spheres of panies should be fully aware of the importance
action—messages, strategy and skills—as well as of communication and help their leaders connect responsible corporation
a fourth sphere representing governance. Each their verbal skills with their nonverbal ones. In
sphere can act independently, but must always take Latin America, a great deal of public perceptions by syncing its business
into consideration that the corporate environment come from nonverbal communication. Therefore,
and culture condition the company’s activities and it is important to train not only executives and goals with the expecta-
the achievement of its business goals. official spokespeople in nonverbal communication,
but also the “informal spokespeople,” such as tions of society.
Messages allow a company to position itself with- employees, who quickly become the voice of the
in a network of relations based on trust toward the organization and can have an influence on a com-
company, its products and services, and especially pany’s reputation.
its people.
Governance describes the corporate structure and
Strategy refers to a synchronized vision of actions management processes that apply to both day-to-
that enables the accomplishment of business day operations and a company’s CSR efforts. It’s
objectives. The development of this integral and critical to align, level and direct each part of the
strategic perspective requires the leader of the company toward its efforts to guarantee the com-
company to harmonize the various interests of pany’s “social license to operate.”
internal stakeholders with those of external audi- —I.P.N.

Knowing that the construc- advantage is that benefits example of a company align-
tion industry provides essential increase when families band ing its social offer with its
building materials, skills and together to save for the materi- business goals through a
employment, CEMEX has als they need over seven cycles worldwide strategy.
exceeded these goals by pro- of 10 weeks, providing them at Corporate sustainability is
moting affordable housing and a fixed price within each cycle. the bridge that permits us to
construction for people in According to the company’s pass from the traditional con-
developing countries, as well as 2008 sustainability report, cept of corporate social respon-
by creating opportunities for more than 224,000 families sibility to the new awareness
community engagement. A have benefited from this ini- in leaders who want to build
great example is “Patrimonio tiative. But the beauty of the socially responsible corpora-
Hoy,” a self-construction pro- program is that besides build- tions. That transition will
gram by CEMEX—and winner ing homes, CEMEX helped depend more and more on
of the 2006 Worldwide Busi- strengthen the social fabric of those who learn to communi-
ness Award given by the United those groups as people worked cate (through their actions)
Nations Development Pro- together to access CEMEX’s their capacity to positively
gramme—that looks to remedy supplies. The real “building” influence others. Therefore, the
housing deficits in Colombia, was in the trust that developed challenge is not to adapt our-
Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa among residents in the com- selves to the environment, but
Rica by providing families with munities, as well as between to accept the challenge of mod-
micro-loans for discounted CEMEX and the program eling it, inviting others to com-
building materials. The true beneficiaries. It’s a powerful pete to improve their work. ● Communication World • May–June 2010 37