90 percent of Americans say they’re more likely to trust and stay loyal to companies that actively try to make a difference. So if your brand doesn’t support social causes, does that mean it’s missing out on a huge audience?
Consumers don’t just like when companies incorporate social good into their business models—they’ve come to expect it, whether it’s through corporate social responsibility (CSR), cause marketing, or “good” content. According to Liz Maw, CEO of nonprofit organization Net Impact, “Communities are grappling with problems that are global in scope and structurally multifaceted—Ebola, persistent poverty, climate change. The business case for engaging in corporate social responsibility is clear and unmistakable. Billions are at stake if fast and large-scale action is not taken.”
Technology has redefined what it means to connect and give back. It’s not just about having a recycling program or sustainable products—people want to feel good about what their dollar is doing. Studies also show that 88 percent of consumers would buy a product with a social or environmental benefit and a surprising 84 percent would tell friends and family about a company’s CSR efforts.
- Ben and Jerry’s uses only fair trade ingredients and has developed a dairy farm sustainability program in its home state of Vermont.
- Starbucks has created its C.A.F.E. Practices guidelines, which are designed to ensure the company sources sustainably grown and processed coffee by evaluating the economic, social and environmental aspects of coffee production.
- Tom’s Shoes donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair a customer purchases.
- SurveyMonkey donates 50 cents per survey completion to the taker’s charity of choice. In 2013, the company donated more than $1 million to organizations such as the Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Teach for America.
- Environment: Any steps businesses can take to reduce their carbon footprints are considered both good for the company and society as a whole.
- Philanthropy: Whether it involves giving money or time, businesses have a lot of resources that can benefit charities and local community programs.
- Ethical labor practices: By treating employees fairly and ethically, companies can also demonstrate their corporate social responsibility.
As health communicators, we realize that businesses cannot underestimate consumers’ intelligence by promoting a cause and simply reaping the benefits. “Causewashing” is a serious issue, and odds are that consumers will smell it a mile away. However, undertaking socially responsible initiatives is truly a win-win situation. Not only will businesses appeal to socially conscious consumers and employees, but making a real difference in the world can be impactful. Keep in mind that in CSR, transparency and honesty about what you’re doing are paramount to earning the public’s trust.
Click to enlarge Column Five‘s infographic below to learn more about how your brand can create “good” content responsibly and effectively.