Corporate Responsibility & Communications: Demonstrating That You Are Giving Back

5 min readFeb 13, 2023
A Fair Trade sign marks the area in the warehouse where Gikanda’s coffee beans are stored before milling, Kenya, 2011. Kate Holt / Marks and Spencer / Arete

With globalisation, the availability of information, and heightened awareness of social and ecological issues, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become ingrained in most brands and there is a widespread belief that corporations have a responsibility to society, for example by engaging in or supporting ethically oriented practices.

Arete is the expert storytelling agency, empowering NGOs, UN bodies, charities, and corporate entities to document the positive work they do and to communicate the benefits in effective ways.

Climate change is bringing corporate responsibility into focus. But a company’s footprint is often more complex than carbon alone. Consumers are now astutely aware of a wide range of issues, and with information travelling so quickly, they wield a collective power to hold companies to account.

Giving Back

CSR represents an opportunity for a corporation to endear itself to consumers — becoming a brand which people want to associate with.

Marks & Spencer for example is one of Kenya’s largest tea and coffee retailers. In 2006 it became the first major retailer to switch all its tea and coffee to Fairtrade. Since then, it has continued to strengthen relationships with Kenyan suppliers, providing education and expert advice to help farmers improve their production and become more sustainable.

From 2013–2017 Arete produced a range of content documenting Marks and Spencer’s presence in Kenya and the community projects they invest in. These materials included a magazine article and photo and video content.

Read an overview of Arete’s work with M&S here.

Taking Responsibility

Corporations are expected to nullify any negative impact their work might have on local people; as well as improving community services. In 2019, Arete supported Shell by documenting the resettlement of residents in Kazakhstan after an expansion of Shell’s operations required them to be rehomed for their safety.

43-year-old school teacher Svetlana Vladimirrovna outside the new house she was given after being forced to leave her home in the village of Berezovska because of the potential dangers of gas leaks from the expanding Karachaganak gas field.
Photo: Kate Holt / Shell / Arete

“Twenty years ago, I couldn’t even imagine having my own house”

Svetlana Vladimirrovna

When there are strong feelings around corporate activities, Arete believes it is important to communicate with openness and transparency. For this particular project, our team captured photo content and produced written work which included statistical information, to create a set of photo stories. At Arete, we empower people to tell their own stories as much as possible, so first-hand interviews play a leading role. When working with Shell it was no different:

“We are comfortable with this. We are resettling together with others from our village and many people from there will be next to us as neighbours.”

Svetlana Geimur, who was also resettled during the project.

Women who are in the process of relocating from the village of Berezovska to a newly built community share a cup of tea in Kazakhstan.
Photo: Kate Holt / Shell / Arete

First-hand testimony is particularly important when it comes to corporate social responsibility, as it can instil a deeper sense of trust and demonstrate the tangible impacts on community members.

Read an extended piece from Arete’s work with Shell here.

Seasonal Campaigns

Around the festive period, we see CSR play a central role in many marketing strategies. With increased consumer activity and a collective sense of good will and sentimentality over the holidays, it is a good time for brands to align themselves with positive causes that are in-keeping with their brand identity.

The annual release of the John Lewis Christmas advert has become something of a seasonal tradition. Always emphasising the company’s warm, homely, family values, the advert last year also took the opportunity to highlight an 18-month project John Lewis has undertaken in collaboration with charity partners Action for Children and Who Cares?

“We are fortunate to have a truly unique platform in our Christmas ad, which sparks a national conversation. As a purpose-led brand, making a genuine difference in our communities is important. At John Lewis we care deeply about families, and recognize that they come in many different forms. For our biggest moment of the year, we decided to focus on one kind of family that is often overlooked.”

Claire Pointon, customer director at John Lewis,

Charity Partners

In a similar vein, Arete partnered with Youth Business International and to publicise their Rapid Response Programme. The Google-funded programme offered support to micro, small and medium sized businesses struggling to get through the unprecedented effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in 32 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

Arete produced photo and video content which documented project initiatives including crisis helplines, targeted advice and signposting, and online training through webinars and mentoring. Google employees also took part in the project by volunteering to share their knowledge and expertise, helping business owners to upskill and adapt to the challenges they were facing.

This partnership allowed Google to make a real difference to the lives of business owners around the world, while aligning themselves with the values of enterprise, digital entrepreneurship, and online business with which they are so closely associated.

Rias, a 28-year-old female entrepreneur, takes pictures of her Lupis Cakes at her home in Indonesia. Thanks to Youth Business International’s COVID Rapid Response and Recovery programme, she was able to transition her business to the online space, enabling her to work to order.
Photo: Yunaidi Joepoet / Youth Business International / Arete

Arete was able to distil the vast impact of Google’s investment into powerful individual stories, like those shown in the photo and video above. It is this ability to cut straight to the most human elements of every project that makes Arete adept at telling corporate social impact stories. Identifying key points of interest and creating a sense of empathy by telling stories at an individual level with high quality content is the best way to communicate the importance of one’s work. After all, giving the audience something they can relate to on a personal level will live much longer in their memory.

Our award-winning journalists, photographers and content providers are eager to help you make a difference.

Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.




Arete is the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations.