Domino’s: Should Firms Fix Our Potholes?
CSR is complex. It’s such a broad concept that a whole host of business activities fall underneath it. The latest example of this, is Domino’s.
Starting in the tail end of 2017, Domino’s started ‘paving for pizza’.
Effectively, they partnered with a number of U.S. towns to fix potholes. They claim that ‘bad roads shouldn’t happen to good pizza’, and they even put a GoPro in a pizza box to highlight the extent of the damage potholes can cause.
Sure, they whole thing feels a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s really interesting from a CSR perspective.
Domino’s: Is it CSR?
Of course, most people would quickly write this off as a textbook PR stunt.
To be honest, they’re probably right, but does that mean it can’t also be CSR?
After all, this is a prime example of a business giving back to society, which is exactly what CSR is all about.
However, one things for sure, it’s not exactly CSR as we know it. It’s a bit more unique and outside the box. But is that a bad thing?
Personally, I think not. In fact, I think there are three key talking points that are worth reflecting on.
1. Think Small
All too often, companies only want to tackle the big problems. They either want to save the world entirely, or not bother at all. In some way I suppose you can applaud the ambition, but it’s actually not that helpful. Not only does it make it quite hard for companies to actually achieve anything substantial, it reenforces the myth that CSR requires practically limitless resources.
Sometimes, the smaller gestures are actually the most heartfelt and sincere. Yes, people want to solve global warming, but they also want their potholes filled in.
Companies shouldn’t be scared to address things that might seem insignificant, provided they’re balancing them with larger, more ambitious goals.
I think local community initiatives should be a key anchor in all CSR strategies. It’s local communities that individual franchises are actually a part of, and their strategy should reflect that.
2. Think Smart
As I’ve spoken about countless times, CSR initiatives should be relevant to the company and integrated in some way.
I suppose the problem with small local gestures like filling in potholes is that there isn’t much of a business link.
It’s just a bit random.
From all the examples I’ve witnessed, ‘random’ gestures that aren’t linked to the business in anyway don’t create much customer engagement. I briefly mentioned this in my Lush article, where I highlighted how their ‘spy-police’ campaign suffered from the lack of business integration.
That mean’s firms have to be quite creative to make it seem relevant.
For example, to protest over Australia’s view on same-sex marriage, Ben and Jerry’s refused to serve any ‘same scoop’ ice creams until it was legalised.
While slightly tenuous, Domino’s ‘paving for pizza’ concept does just that. It creates a link between what they’re doing and their business. Sure, it’s not the strongest link, and it may seem meaningless, but in reality, it means their activities resonate far more with the public.
3. Firms vs Governments
While I stand by the fact that this is great CSR, it does open up an interesting debate surrounding corporate and government responsibilities.
Yes, it’s great that Domino’s are giving back to their local area, but should they need to?
Why aren’t local councils providing the necessary road maintenance?
For me, CSR shouldn’t just be about firms ‘picking up the slack’ where governments have failed. Ultimately, both companies and governments have responsibilities to society, and we’re all best off when both parties carry out their obligations.
In the same way that governments shouldn’t have to make up for businesses failing to benefit society, the opposite is also true. While it may not be a problem now, it’s perhaps a concerning trend to watch out for if it starts becoming the norm.
Ultimately, while I’d love to just talk about CSR, it seems quite clear that this, to some extent at least, is a bit of a PR stunt.
That being said, I still believe that CSR and PR aren’t mutually exclusive. Personally, I think Domino’s have clearly contributed to their local communities, and they’ve done so in a very unique and creative way. For that, I think they deserve all the good PR they can get.
In addition, I think this case study helps to challenge the idea that CSR must exist within a particular mould.
As Domino’s have shown, not all CSR programmes must follow the same rules.
In fact, it’s the ones that don’t that we’ll keep talking about.
Hi! I’m an author and blogger within the fields of social impact and responsible business. I believe that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and this website contains my thoughts on how that can work.