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First, let’s be clear about what we talk about when we talk about reputation.
Christine Jacob provides an excellent definition in her paper, ‘The Impact of Financial Crisis on Corporate Social Responsibility and Its Implications for Reputation Risk Management’:“Reputation can be defined as ‘a stakeholder’s overall evaluation of a company over time,’ this evaluation is made up from the stakeholder’s experience of the visible behavior of the company, as well as the images based on the company’s communication and in addition its symbolism in comparison with its major competitors (Gotsi & Wilson, 2001).”What factors make up a company’s reputation?
Six years later, MIT Sloan Management Review and BCG asked 2,600 executives, “What are the greatest benefits to your organizations in addressing sustainability?
” The first reply on the list was none other than “improved brand reputation” (40 percent).
In 2006, Andrew Winston and Daniel Esty wrote in Green to Gold that building corporate reputation and trusted brands is one of the ways smart companies can profit from sustainability.“The better a company does at protecting its reputation and building brand trust, the more successful it will be at gaining and maintaining competitive differentiation,” they wrote.So it got me wondering if this is really true – are sustainability and CSR a path to brand reputation management?While it does seem logical and there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence to support it, I decided it was worth checking if this hypothesis is also supported by academic research.
Key drivers of a good reputation, explain Katinka Gyomlay and Stefan Moser include vision and leadership, products and services, financial performance, treatment of staﬀ, social and environmental responsibility and emotional appeal.These factors, they explain, change over time, reﬂecting changes in society in general and business in particular.