Businesses can no longer afford to be focused on profit margin alone. Nowadays, with the growing trend of corporate social responsibility (CSR), companies have to understand the importance of contributing to the well-being of the community in which they operate. Though the major benefit of socially responsible businesses is having a stellar brand image, it’s not the only reason to support worthwhile causes through your company.
It’s about creating a higher sense of purpose for both executives and employees who work at such companies. A stable CSR model can cut a company’s employee turnover rate in half while also getting an uptick in productivity from its workers, according to a recent report.
Companies that can give back to relevant causes, successfully market their social responsibility and always adapt to evolving issues or movements will be the ones who build and maintain the strongest CSR models. Let’s take a closer look at how businesses truly flourish when positioning themselves as socially responsible brands.
Strengthen the same community that you inhabit
The cliché “a rising tide lifts all boats” can apply to successful business models that help elevate others who occupy their same industry or community. Depending on your business, there’s plenty of opportunity to collaborate with affiliates or similarly minded organizations.
A black-owned business, for example, could team up with the NAACP or other civil rights groups to support racial justice through donations or sponsorships. A business that sells toys or apparel for children could partner with a childhood advocacy group like UNICEF. There are endless possibilities depending on your product or brand.
This gives companies the chance to almost become a social justice organization of their own, as their business models can align directly with their broader CSR models.
In the age of Amazon, the online book-selling platform Bookshop gives back to small, independent bookstores by giving 75 percent of the site’s profits to these stores as well as publications and authors who also make up an industry in need of financial support.
For its part, the outdoor apparel brand Patagonia has long raised money for environmentally conscious causes. It made big news a few years ago when it took an extra $10 million it saved from what it called an “irresponsible” corporate tax cut and gave it to environmental groups defending the planet’s natural resources.
This ability to back words with actions goes a long way to attracting customers who want to feel good about what they purchase. Now you just have to make sure people know about the causes your business is supporting.
Make CSR the basis of your marketing strategy
Through the right marketing tactics, brands like those mentioned above become synonymous with the social causes that they support. But it’s critical to make sure that whatever issue you’re championing through your company is going to resonate with your customers.
That’s because consumers want to support the places that stand for more than just the revenue they make. Eighty-seven percent of people said they would buy a product that supports an issue they care about, according to a Cone Communications study.
This has manifested in a number of popular companies. From the moment it entered the scene, TOMS became known for its socially responsible business model. The shoe brand was famous for donating a pair of shoes to children in need for every pair its customers bought. Now it is adapting by donating a share of its profits to help fight coronavirus.
This cause-related marketing strategy that emphasizes the one-for-one model where you buy one pair and one pair gets donated is central to their business. The appeal of helping out is a major reason why TOMS is now a $400 million company.
Bombas is another company that has become known for giving back to social causes, as it started out by giving millions of pairs of socks to homeless people, following in the same one-for-one model that TOMS proved could be lucrative. Since its founding, Bombas has donated tens of millions of pairs of socks and is now worth $50 million, largely because it has more than a thousand affiliate partners that help organically market their products and spread awareness for their causes.
The more your messaging spreads to people and resonates with them, the more potential you have to establish a base of eager customers.
Always be willing to evolve to new social movements and events
As we’ve seen over the past year, the world can change quickly. Corporations had to move rapidly to show they weren’t being toned deaf in the face of a pandemic and a summer of racial unrest.
Following the George Floyd protests, a number of companies decided to stay proactive with their messaging and not stay on the sidelines. Companies like Nike, Twitter and General Motors, for instance, used a paid holiday for Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S.
In a historically tumultuous 2020, companies had to ask themselves if they would totally abandon their previous cause to focus solely on the pandemic. For some, that came in the form of changing up their communications tactics to be more sensitive to the health and economic fallout from COVID-19, or donating to causes that help people recover financially.
This is where bigger companies can often lead by example. Amazon, for instance, started a $5 million fund to help small businesses in Seattle after mom-and-pop stores everywhere became the most vulnerable to the economic devastation.
Companies have run a big risk of not acknowledging the coronavirus in marketing materials or on their website. And most consumers say they do want some acknowledgment of the troubles people are facing now, as 77 percent responded in a recent survey that they want brands to show they are aware of the crisis and its impact. Another 71 percent said they would lose trust in a company that seems to be putting profit over people right now.
Being able to adapt to especially volatile times is just one of the ways in which you can use a CSR model to your benefit. And if you support social issues relevant to your product offering or successfully market your cause, you are well on your way to a socially responsible business that can find just as much prosperity as those that have come before you.
Murali K. Nethi is the founder and CEO of SnapBlooms.com, an online florist marketplace that provides hand-delivered, high-quality flowers to customers by connecting them with local florists. Murali’s background in computer science and 24+ years spent delivering enterprise IT programs, combined with his rich experience running small businesses have allowed him to explore innovative business solutions in the floral industry.