The Necessity of Bragging: Corporate Social Responsibility

February 18,2016

Most people would agree that bragging is not attractive and does not invite goodwill. It may seem counterintuitive then to say that a company should brag about things that demonstrate its ethics—but that is the essence of corporate social responsibility, or CSR.

I recently met with the leader of an up-and-coming biotechnology company in Manhattan. The CEO was unquestionably brilliant and quite young to have already achieved so much. I would describe our conversation as cerebral until we struck a passionate chord discussing our mutually altruistic drive to aid helpless children.

“I would have never known this about you,” I said matter-of-factly. “You mention nothing on your website. Do you realize you are sitting on a treasure chest with all of the work you do to aid children? Tell people about it. What an excellent opportunity to show people how responsible the company is.”

“I can’t do that,” the CEO replied. “It’s bragging and self-serving.”

Ten or 15 years ago, I most likely would have agreed with him. But post Sarbanes-Oxley, a company telling about its CSR endeavors is necessary, expected and, in fact, best practice.


Ethisphere® Institute is a leading independent center that promotes best practices in corporate ethics and compliance. Every year, Ethisphere recognizes the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by evaluating five criteria and giving weight to them as follows:

  • Ethics and Compliance Program (35%)
  • Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility (20%)
  • Culture of Ethics (20%)
  • Governance (15%)
  • Leadership, Innovation and Reputation (10%)

Note that Ethisphere gives equal weight to “Corporate Citizenship and Responsibility” and “Culture of Ethics”—each accounting for 20% of a company’s total ethics score, or Ethics Quotient (EQ™).1 Said another way, CSR is critical to a company’s ethical reputation; and an ethical reputation is critical to a company’s success, particularly if that company is publicly traded.

Thus, the Manhattan CEO was right in the sense that highlighting your company as a responsible corporate citizen is self-serving. However, in the broader context of CSR, it can weigh favorably towards your company’s ethical reputation, thereby adding value for investors, customers and other stakeholders.

To be clear, it is not best practice to brag. Rather, best practice is to be competitive in benefiting the welfare of the surrounding community, the environment, the world at large and those in need and to communicate those efforts proactively and, in turn, be recognized as good corporate citizens.

In today’s world, CSR is indispensable, and telling the world about it is, ironically, the key to goodwill and corporate attractiveness.


Kara J. Stancell joined Fingerpaint’s Scottsdale office as a pharmaceutical public relations professional after serving nearly three years as managing partner for Credible Strategic Advisors, an investor and public relations and corporate strategy consulting firm she co-founded. Prior to that, Ms. Stancell served 10 years as the corporate spokesperson for Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation and as vice president, investor and public relations and corporate communications until the company’s acquisition in 2012. She is a proponent of corporate social responsibility and thrives helping companies plan and implement strategic and effective PR programs.

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