In today’s business world, the acronym CSR now shares the spotlight in annual reports and shareholder meetings alongside ROI, KPIs and YOY results. But what exactly do these three letters stand for? Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, represents a company’s commitment to the community and environment – both ecological and social – in which it operates.
This lofty concept may seem daunting, but if you instead interpret CSR as Contributing Something Real, the idea becomes much more actionable.
More than ever before, consumers believe brands have the opportunity to create meaningful change – and there are three trends that companies can leverage to refine their CSR approach:
Trend #1: Take a stand.
Companies that are truly invested in CSR are united by the belief that purpose precedes profit. They anchor both their business and philanthropic goals in their foundational values as an organization – and consumers take notice.
In fact, many people expect brands to lead the way when it comes to bettering their communities, with 78% of Americans wanting companies to take a stand for social justice issues. According to ReputationManagement.com, this strategy could be good for business:
- 92 percent of consumers have a more positive image of companies that support social issues and environmental efforts.
- 63 percent of the public would give socially responsible businesses the benefit of the doubt during a crisis.
- 87 percent will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.
- 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra to support companies that are committed to CSR.
Despite these compelling statistics – and the fact that charitable giving is at an all-time high – corporations rank last when it comes to giving back. Of the $410 billion of charitable giving in 2017, only $18.55 billion came from corporations.
Some companies do recognize the importance of charitable giving and CSR – like Gilead Sciences, which donated $388 million in 2017 to a variety of health-related projects – but for many of today’s businesses, there’s clearly room for improvement. To stay relevant, companies must understand the business case for CSR, be willing to put a stake in the ground for a cause they believe in and financially validate their commitment.
Trend #2: Show some “local love.”
Despite the size of your organization – and whether its footprint extends across a city or around the world – you can’t ignore your roots. It may be easy to overlook smaller, local initiatives in an effort to support global causes, but efforts to make the world a better place can begin right in your company’s backyard.
Interestingly, more than half of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” offer paid leave to employees so they can give back to their communities. Some even give workers a week or more for VTO – Volunteer Time Off – to dedicate to their preferred nonprofit. For example, software giant Salesforce offers seven paid days for community service for each of their 30,000 employees. Timberland follows close behind with its Path of Service™ program, awarding 40 paid hours dedicated to volunteering plus an opportunity to participate in a six-month paid sabbatical with a nonprofit organization.
From hosting a canned food drive to organizing a neighborhood clean-up day, engaging workers in corporate citizenship may be easier than you think.
Trend #3: Embrace authenticity.
For CSR efforts to inspire lasting impact, the initiatives must be authentic and woven into the core of your business.
Consumers are increasingly skeptical of short-lived marketing campaigns and seek brands that embed human values at the very heart of their strategies, dismissing greenwashing and responding to real issues with meaningful action that goes beyond a “stunt.” In fact, half-hearted or misleading CSR efforts could inadvertently damage a company’s reputation.
Focus on adopting Corporate Social Responsibility practices that align with your company’s values and commit to putting resources behind these initiatives so they can make a tangible difference. Then, tell your brand’s purposeful story in a unique way. For example, the Chick-fil-A Foundation produces an engaging multimedia stewardship report that balances annual impact numbers with personal testimonials from restaurant operators, scholarship recipients and other beneficiaries. A dry annual report or straightforward infographic doesn’t move the needle anymore – brands must tell a humble yet compelling story to earn the respect and loyalty of their target audiences.
At Jackson Spalding, we recognize these trends and embrace our foundational ideal of doing “great work and good works” – serving both our clients and our communities. Contributing something real is at the heart of who we are as an agency. Want to see an example of our own CSR efforts in action? Check out this post!