In today’s social climate, it’s important for companies to incorporate corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their brand DNA. People want to work for and give their business to socially conscious organizations, and they don’t buy into social campaigns that feel like marketing stunts or are blatantly self-serving.
In the past, corporate foundations may have signed checks for a variety of unrelated causes, and would be generally satisfied with the noble act of giving back. Employees and customers may have been able to donate, but generally they wouldn’t be involved in deciding what causes were being supported or given an option as to how they’d like to participate.
But the CSR and corporate giving paradigm has shifted. People want to know exactly how corporate brands are making the world a better place. Think about brands like Johnson & Johnson, Subaru and Canadian Tire Corporation. These companies have built their dedication to giving back directly into their brand promise in a tangible and authentic way.
In order to similarly weave social good into the very fabric of your brand, companies need input and buy in from three key stakeholder groups: employees, customers, and community.
Employees: Employees make up a large portion of your brand identity, so find out what causes make them tick and how they’d like to contribute to those causes. For J&J, a healthcare company, it makes sense that employees would gravitate toward engaging with the global health organizations the company supports — after all, many employees are working there not only because it’s a great company, but also because they are passionate about healthcare. Which causes naturally align with your brand offering? Answering this question is a good starting point to engaging employees in CSR efforts; whether it involves employee donations, volunteerism, or deciding which causes to fund through a corporate giving program.
Customers: When it comes to consumers, 66% are willing to spend more on a purchase if it comes from a sustainable brand, and that number jumps to 73% when it comes to Millennials. Further, your customers not only expect your brand to stand for something, but they also want to be able to participate. Customers have become more advanced in their thinking about a company’s CSR efforts – they don’t expect “giving back” to be completely divorced from profit, but they do expect authenticity tied to a culture of good corporate citizenship.
One tactic that many brands have adopted is quite effective — when customers buy something, a financial or in-kind donation is made to a specific cause. Its heartwarming commercials now a holiday season tradition, every year during its Subaru Share the Love event, Subaru of America gives a donation for every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased to the customer's choice of select national and community nonprofit partners. Customers know that their purchase is making a direct impact, driving future purchases and brand loyalty.
Community: Giving back to the communities in which your business operates is crucial to building a culture of giving back for your brand. When deciding how to allocate resources for CSR, consider the issues affecting your community on a local level that intersect with your business’ core competencies. For example, Canadian Tire Corporation invests in ensuring children across Canada are able to benefit physically and socially from organized sports through its Jumpstart initiative, regardless of their financial situation or physical abilities. Engage with key stakeholders in the community to understand how your business can be most impactful on the local level, and these community stakeholders will become some of your brand’s biggest advocates and greatest storytellers.
Authenticity is the key to building a socially conscious and responsible brand. But in order to achieve that coveted authenticity, brands must thoughtfully gather input and generate buy in from the people who embody the brand the most: employees, customers, and community. Leveraging these key elements throughout your CSR programs can have a big effect on your company’s reputation and performance, larger than just building and communicating about your program on your own.