The public’s expectation of corporations has come a long way from the profit-centric models of the past 30 years. Today, 91% of the global population wants to see businesses do more than just make a profit. 88% of consumers want to engage with brands that put a premium on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Businesses that learn this lesson have flourished. Businesses that don’t have lost market share or even failed. This will continue to be the case if businesses don’t take steps to become better corporate citizens. With demand for businesses to do more than succeed for themselves increasing across party and generational lines, it is imperative for businesses to seek out opportunities to align themselves with causes that boost their CSR. In addition to quality and price, the benefits a corporation provides to society is quickly becoming another pillar of the business world.
What is (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility?
CSR strategies should encourage companies to conduct operations in a manner that is ethical and sustainable for all stakeholders (shareholders, employees, customers, and the planet). Brands that engage in proactive CSR examine the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their goods and services, and identify ways to improve positive impact, reduce negative impact and get more ROI from current spending. CSR strategies involve a range of activities, which can include:
- Participating in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) – an international independent standards organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate their impact on issues such as climate change, human rights and corruption
- Partnering with local communities and nonprofit organizations to improve the communities in which they operate
- Developing relationships and open communication channels with employees and customers to ensure needs are met and rights are upheld
- Prioritizing environmental protection and sustainability practices, such as carbon neutral and leave no trace policies
- Choosing business advertising services that also create awareness and funding for nonprofits, like cause marketing
Early adopters in the CSR movement have disrupted their industries by balancing the need to maximize revenues with minimizing the negative impacts of their businesses on the environment and society. Whether it is distribution, manufacturing, materials sourcing, packaging, marketing or human resources, CSR-focused companies have the benefit of holding the moral high ground, a clear point of difference between them and their less responsible competitors.
CSR Communications: a vital outreach tool for businesses & philanthropy
In the business world, no good deed should go unpromoted, and each bad deed can hurt your brand’s reputation. A recent study from Cone Communications found that 88% of people want to know about a company’s CSR efforts, and 84% would “tell friends and family” about a company’s CSR efforts. To capitalize on this demand, businesses publish information about their CSR initiatives and activities on their company website, social media and sometimes ad campaigns. Some brands devote single landing pages and some entirely separate websites to their CSR efforts. It should be noted that taking CSR stances that are seen as political or controversial can both make supporters of your brand more passionate and alienate other customers, but that’s a topic for another article. There are many issues our communities face that we can all agree need help.
Millennials and CSR
TOMS learned early on that today’s consumers are voting with their wallets and attention, particularly millennial shoppers. Millennials are 80 million strong and account for about $1T of USA consumer spending. That number is only increasing as millennials grow into their peak buying power as they age.
More than 81% of millennials expect companies to make commitments and be good corporate citizens. The rise of Pledge 1%, BCorp, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and other CSR initiatives underscores the premium that today’s consumers are placing on CSR.
Studies also shows that a significant number of millennials say they will make personal sacrifices to have a positive impact for the things they care about most. This means that they may even pay more for a product benefiting a cause, share products rather than buying, or even taking a pay cut just to work for a company they believe is having a positive impact. 73% of millennials say they will pay more for a product that is sustainable according to the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report.
CSR marketing integration as a response to consumer demand
Demands for greater disclosure of business practices come from all stakeholders; suppliers, employees, customers, activist organizations, local communities, and shareholders are all driving businesses to communicate CSR with the community. Cone Communications found that when it comes to consumers, “74% if given the opportunity would voice their opinion to a company about its corporate social responsibility efforts”. By sharing company CSR stories with their consumers, companies are able to shape those opinions in a way that has positive impacts for nonprofit causes.
Consumers “Reward or Punish” businesses based on CSR
The ethics of how a business conducts operations has a direct impact on customers’ buying decisions. A recent survey by Environics International shows more than 20% of respondents have reportedly either rewarded a company or punished it (in terms of giving it their business) based on the company’s social performance. Cone Communications also reported “88% of people, if they learned of a company’s irresponsible or deceptive business practices, would stop buying its products or services.”
Growing Investor Pressure
While socially responsible investing has been around for generations, millennials have latched on to the concept in a big way. According to SoFi Learn, 92% of millennials plan to put their entire holdings into socially responsible investments. Today’s investors are using reporting standards like the ERGS and GRI to gauge business investments and long term returns. According to USSIF, more than $8.7 TRILLION in managed assets fell within SRI standards in 2016. Not only do companies with a high level of CSR entice more interest from socially-conscious investors, but they also often bring those investors more ROI. Nothing rattles investors like a PR scandal or news of a company’s unethical behavior becoming a trending topic.
Superior Public Relations
Some companies are now taking steps to encourage their employees to be involved in volunteer activities and even paying them when they do, even matching employee giving in some cases. Other companies are introducing CSR policies regarding codes of conduct for their suppliers to ensure that a provider’s unethical business practices don’t affect their companies negatively or tarnish their brand image. Also, as mentioned above in the case of TOMS, CSR can lead to major PR wins (when’s the last time someone got on the Tonight Show for just selling shoes?).
What can a company gain from integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into operations?
There are multiple potential positive outcomes a company can get from CSR integration, including:
- Increased consumer affinity
- Improved employee relations
- Decreasing operating costs
- Enhanced reputation and brand image
- Increased product sales
- Workforce inclusion and diversity
- Improved product safety
- Reduced operation risks
- Greater productivity
- A cleaner environment
- Organic/earned media coverage
How does the community benefit from CSR?
Our communities can benefit from the CSR activities of businesses in multiple ways, these are just a few below:
- Greater use of renewable resources
- Better product safety and sustainability
- Less environmental and health dangers
- Investments into community development
- More funding and awareness for nonprofits
- Better compensation and equitable pay
- More inclusive economic opportunities
Communicating CSR effectively and authentically
Authenticity should be at the heart of your CSR Communications. At the core of every great CSR strategy is an authentic message your business communicates to engage with the rest of the world. Communicating CSR isn’t just putting your well-intentioned messages out there, but also ensuring that someone is engaged by that message and can team up with your business in making a difference. The most effective CSR communications will not just bring attention to a company’s CSR achievements, but also engage people with your brand in authentic ways that encourage them to impact causes that are important to them and your brand.
The main purpose of advertising CSR is to leave a lasting impression. Some companies complain that even after producing CSR reports, few people actually download or read them. The main reasons why the majority of the people don’t engage with CSR reports is they aren’t convenient, poor content understandability, lack of awareness, and no consumer benefit from reading them. Although “82% of Americans expect companies to report on the progress of their social and environmental efforts, only 17 percent say they have read a CSR report in the past 12 months”, according to the recently released 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study. To ensure you communicate your CSR effectively and leave a lasting impression with those engaged, you need to be innovative in the methods you use to connect with people with your CSR efforts.
WeThinkItMatters® and the future of cause-integrated CSR campaigns
One of the best strategies to create lasting connections is by investing in cause-integrated CSR campaigns that don’t only aim to share info with people, but also encourage them to create a positive impact with you. At the forefront of cause-integrated CSR communications, WeThinkItMatters® offers businesses a place to engage with people bringing awareness and funding to nonprofits. By using WeThinkItMatters® cause-integrated marketing platform, people with just the tap of their finger can vote for a charity to receive funding from the business sponsoring the campaign. In Addition to the chance to win cash and prizes.
WeThinkItMatters® creates a sustainable advertising platform where all parties are incentivized to participate, WTIM.co supercharges CSR campaigns Results and ROI. CSR communications on WeThinkItMatters® don’t just bring attention to a brand – WTIM.co literally creates awareness and funding for nonprofits affiliated with the campaigns. Companies who invest advertising dollars on WeThinkItMatters® campaigns can be assured that 60% of their campaign spend goes to fund nonprofits. And 10% to the people voting in the campaigns.
Brands can make a difference in the communities in which they operate, and find ways to improve customers’ lives. As the demand for CSR continues to grow, it will increasingly affect investor relations, employee satisfaction, and consumers’ opinions on which companies they want to support. There’s no doubt that effective CSR communications can be powerful sales and Public Relations tools, especially when authentic and combined with the power of WeThinkItMatters® cause-integrated marketing platform. WTIM.co offers CSR-minded companies more ROI and Impact from their advertising dollars in a way that is unmatched in the industry today. Contact us today for a free consultation on how WeThinkItMatters® can elevate your marketing metrics.