Strategic CSR branding: Turning CSR activities into strategic benefits for SkiStar

Elsa Louise Helena Berg & Andrea Cecilia Engstrand

Student thesis: Master thesis


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has over the past years gained increasing awareness in the society as a whole interesting stakeholders and accordingly attained prominence on the corporate agenda. A challenge for companies is to build a business case for CSR, defending the new investments with positive payback to the company. Even though the perception is somewhat changing, many companies today still view CSR as an isolated costly activity, decoupled from core business. The fundamental basis of this master thesis is to investigate the challenging undertaking of strategically managing and communicating CSR. A challenge that was outlined to the authors by the case company SkiStar, Scandinavia’s leading operator of alpine ski destinations. The main objective is to develop a framework of how corporations in general, and the case company in particular, can build a strategic CSR agenda and integrate it in the corporate brand. This objective is sought attained by investigating the following research question: How can SkiStar work strategically with CSR and communicate it through the corporate brand in order to maintain and strengthen their competitive position on the market? Strategic CSR is attained in a process of contextual analysis, building the corporate CSR agenda on the identified and relevant points of intersection, or mutual interests between the company and the society. The aim is to avoid making decisions that gain the company at the expense of society and instead focus on creating shared value. A fundamental argument in this thesis is that building and acting a strategic CSR agenda is not enough if the goal is to turn CSR engagement into a competitive advantage. In order to grasp the full potential and attain a competitive advantage from the strategic CSR engagement, the CSR agenda needs to be communicated to external stakeholders and society through the corporate brand. The argument is that the tools for integrating the strategic CSR agenda in the corporate brand identity, i.e. in the strategic vision, corporate image and organisational culture, are to be found in the identity approach to brand management. It is furthermore complemented by the cultural approach serving to explain the need to proactively engage in the CSR debate by reflecting relevant CSR issues in the corporate brand. In response to the key findings, the authors introduce ‘The Strategic CSR Branding Model’; a managerial toolkit of how strategic CSR can be built and integrated in the corporate brand. A step-by-step guide of how to become a ‘Strategic CSR Brand’ is presented: (1) Conduct a macro analysis, (2) Map out the points of intersection through a micro analysis, (3) Select relevant points of intersection and outline the strategic CSR agenda, (4) Integrate the strategic CSR agenda in the corporate brand Integration, (5) Install flexibility into ‘The Strategic CSR Brand. The model is furthermore applied to the case company SkiStar, providing suggestions to relevant points of intersection on which SkiStar’s CSR agenda should be built and how these new values should be integrated in the SkiStar brand in a way that can maintain and strengthen their competitive position on the market.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages126