When consumers make a purchase, they don't just buy a product, they buy a brand. Your reputation as a socially responsible company can make or break the decision to support your brand.
Social responsibility is the process of giving back to society, whether through charitable giving, protecting the environment, or conducting fair labor practices. That means ethical behaviors play a key role in how you make decisions on sourcing products, developing supply chains, and giving back to your local community.
While developing social responsibility programs comes with an investment upfront, it usually plays dividends later on. In fact, 71% of consumers say social responsibility is the most important attribute of a company, which can influence buying decisions.
Below, we explain what social responsibility is, why it matters, and how companies incorporate social responsibility into their business practices.
What is corporate social responsibility and why is it important?
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) means conducting business in such a way that benefits society as a whole. Corporate citizenship refers to the extent to which companies are willing to meet environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) standards.
There are limitless social responsibility initiatives, benefiting the environment, economy, well-being of the local community, or a group of individuals.
Social responsibility is a way to give back to the community — to leave the world in a better place than you found it.
Since social responsibility programs are completely voluntary (i.e., not required by federal or local governments) some company leaders may be hesitant to invest in such initiatives. Beyond pure moral obligation, there are plenty of reasons why social responsibility is important.
1. It attracts top talent 🌟
Making social responsibility part of your business strategy helps you attract — and retain — top job candidates. If you want to entice applicants to choose your company over your competitors, take a hard look at your CSR programs.
Research shows that 64% of millennials won't accept a job offer if the employer doesn't have a corporate social responsibility program in place. Gen Z feels the same way, stating they prioritize their company's purpose over their own salary. If you want to increase your competitiveness in the job market and attract your next pool of applicants, start researching how you can give back to your community.
2. It keeps shareholders on your side 👊
Shareholder activism is the process in which stakeholders holding a minority try to bring about change. In the past few years, shareholder activism has been on the rise, as individuals try to influence a company's environmental impact, sustainable development, and business ethics.
In 2019, the Activist Investor Report showed activists launched 893 campaigns, 17% of which were successful. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts decreased in 2020, but experts believe shareholders will strive to influence real change in 2021. By making social responsibility a key component in your business practices, you can strengthen relationships between your board of directors, consumers, and the public.
3. It can benefit your bottom line 📈
Developing social responsibility campaigns doesn't just have a positive impact in your community — it can have a positive impact on your P&L.
Research shows that 70% of consumers want to know how brands support social justice and environmental sustainability. Your customers want to see how you support human rights and are striving to reduce your carbon footprint. By developing clear, actionable steps toward CSR initiatives, you can attract more buyers for your products.
How 4 brands incorporate social responsibility into their business practices
Wondering how you can ramp up social responsibility efforts at your company? See how these four companies are speaking out against social injustice, reducing carbon emissions, and contributing to the welfare of society.
1. Google invests billions in environmental sustainability 🌿
Environmental sustainability is one of the key values of Google. For years, the company worked to reduce its carbon footprint, build products that protect the planet, and invest in renewable energy projects throughout the supply chain.
In 2017, Google became the first company to match their annual electricity consumption with renewable energy. By 2018, they became the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world. In 2019, they invested $7 billion in 52 projects related to energy infrastructure (including solar panels, wind turbines, and other projects).
2. Pfizer works to improve of people around the world 🏥
Pfizer is committed to promoting health and well-being for people across the world. Their CSR program, "Health for All," looks to provide quality healthcare services to people who otherwise can't afford them.
Pfizer joined with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 3, working to ensure the health and safety of people of all ages. To do their part, Pfizer provided 370,000 new patients with care, donated 875 million doses of antibiotics to 40 countries, developed new vaccines to protect children against pneumonia across the globe, and helped 679,000 receive free or discounted prescriptions.
3. Sprout Social looks to improve the communities they live in 💗
Sprout Social, the social media management platform, makes giving back a key part of their brand identity. The company launched a CSR initiative called "Sprout Serves" in 2019, looking to raise money for nonprofits, volunteer their time, and invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion education.
Sprout Social gives employees free time off to volunteer in their community, logging 10,000 volunteer hours across the company. They also host an annual Philanthropy Week, where they raise money for various charities. In 2020, Sprout Social hosted their Philanthropy Week on Givebutter, raising $42k for 10 different charities.
4. Starbucks commits to fair-trade coffee ☕
Fair trade products ensure better trading conditions for producers in developing countries. Arguably the most well-known case study for promoting fair trade products is Starbucks.
Through a partnership with Conservation International, Starbucks buys 100% ethically sourced coffee, benefiting 1 million people in coffee communities worldwide. In addition, Starbucks invested $100 million in these communities to build farmer support centers, fund farmer loans, and launch forest carbon projects.
10 ways small businesses can launch a social responsibility program
If you read the above examples thinking, "Yes, but they're Google!" or "They're Starbucks!" don't worry. All companies — both large and small — can make a commitment toward social responsibility.
Here are just a few programs you can launch with little to no investment:
- Compensate for volunteering 🙏: Designate free time off for employees to volunteer in your community.
- Get organized 👯: Develop a social responsibility committee to organize campaigns and brainstorm new CSR initiatives.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle ♼: Launch a recycling program at your office or purchase recycled products.
- Think and buy local 💡: Buy from local producers or suppliers to reduce energy costs.
- Launch a green day 🌱: Encourage different departments to clean up parks or plant trees (not just on Earth Day!).
- Give back 💸: Raise money for local schools, nonprofits, or clubs in your community (especially those that might not get national attention!).
- Educate on diversity and inclusion 🙋: Invite employees, partners, or vendors from racially diverse backgrounds to speak to your team once a month on equity and inclusion.
- Cut down on commuting 💻: Allow employees to telecommute 1-2 days per week to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Go paperless when possible 🍃: Reduce or eliminate hard copies at meetings, and stop printing unless absolutely necessary.
- Match charitable donations 💰: If an employee donates to charity, volunteer to match their donation.
Companies large and small can make a big impact through social responsibility programs.
To start giving back to your community, raise funds for a local cause on Givebutter. With 70+ features at your fingertips and zero platform fees, you can launch a campaign to benefit a local cause. Launch your free Givebutter account today to get started.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.