Whether you call it “social responsibility,” “cause marketing,” or “community relations,” a company’s efforts to “give back” to the community are becoming increasingly important to customers, investors, partners — and the world at large. In fact, according to a 2017 Cone/Echo CR Opportunity Study: 93% of consumers think companies should raise awareness for causes.
This isn’t just “feel good” feedback. The same Cone/Echo study notes that 94% of people would switch from one brand to another (all else being more or less equal) if the brand was associated with a good cause.
According to Whitney Dailey, Director, Marketing/Research & Insights at Cone Communications: “Consumer sentiment has grown significantly over the last two decades, showing an unwavering conviction to do business with companies that care. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is not a fad, a trend or nice-to-have. It’s a business imperative that must be authentic and seamlessly integrated into the brand value proposition.”
How to get started with a CSR program?
1. Make Social Responsibility Part of Your Company’s Culture
Companies must consistently make choices that help communities and charitable organizations.
Starbucks has long been regarded as a pioneer in corporate altruism with notable charitable efforts such as its Ethos® Water program, created to help provide children in developing countries with access to clean water.
“From Day One, we’ve always believed our business model was a little bit different,” explained Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in a recent interview with GenConnect. “That was to create a balance between making a profit and shareholder value but, most specifically, a social conscience and a level of benevolence.”
2. Focus on Causes That Align with Your Business
Social efforts should complement the company’s primary business mission.
In 2014 French grocer Intermarché launched their “The Inglorious Fruit and Vegetable” campaign, aimed at reducing waste of less-than-perfect looking (but perfectly good) food. How? By selling the imperfect produce at a 30% discount, placing this produce at the center of the stores and promoting the effort with an ingenious marketing strategy.
According to Intermarché's website the result were indeed “glorious:”
“This initiative is a complete success because it’s a win-win-win campaign: consumers get the same quality products for cheaper, the growers get money for products that are usually thrown away and Intermarché increase its business by selling a brand new line of products.”
Specifically, Intermarché sold 1.2 tons of imperfect produce in the first two days of the campaign and have enjoyed a 24% lift in store traffic.
3. Engage Your Employees in the Effort
Corporate philanthropic efforts are no longer limited to a photo op and an oversized check.
Successful CSR programs are now driven by its stakeholders and communities.
Rachel Hutchisson, the vice president of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, outlines the three key ingredients in creating an egalitarian approach to CSR:
4. Publicize the Program (without sounding self serving)
Your customers need to know that by patronizing your company they will have made a tangible positive impact on society.
To be considered credible, the focus of your communications should be on the beneficiaries of your CSR programs. As such, testimonials are an impactful and authentic way to communicate your message and should be utilized in as many communications as possible.
Great ways to tastefully promote your good works include:
Committing to do good and following through on that promise is one of the smartest business investments you can make.
As Starbucks’ Shultz notes: “Some people say social responsibility isn’t our job—that our only job is to try to make a profit...I reject that. I can tell you with much proof that it is accretive (adds value) to shareholder value.”