Corporate social responsibility is increasingly discussed among analysts these days, but what does it really mean? In short, it refers to efforts a company makes regarding environmental and social well-being. Companies with a reputation for social responsibility enjoy benefits both internally and externally.
How can you make your organization more socially responsible?
Benefits of social responsibility
Companies that show that they take care of their staff, community, and environment find it easier to attract top talent. More candidates than ever now consider social responsibility when evaluating which businesses they want to work for. Customers also place more importance on this when choosing where they cast their dollar vote. When customers know they are doing good by choosing your company, they become loyal and spread the word, which boosts your bottom line.
How do you establish a good reputation?
Establishing a reputation for corporate responsibility takes time and effort. Here are some factors to keep in mind when implementing a plan to boost your company’s social responsibility.
Many businesses find outsourcing manufacturing overseas cost-effective, but this can come at a price. Associating with manufacturers who have a reputation for treating their employees poorly can cause a backlash against your brand (as many companies have learned the hard way). It’s also important to consider where your overseas vendors are located to avoid potentially negative political associations.
Customers are more aware than ever of what businesses do with their profits. Philanthropic works can improve your reputation and add a “feel-good” emotional response to help influence customers’ purchasing behavior. Here are some examples:
- Donations: Donating to charities or causes is a simple and effective way to boost your company’s reputation.
- Proceeds: Associating purchasing with philanthropy is a great way to specifically influence customers. Advertising that X% of proceeds or profits from a specific sales window or for specific products, for example, puts your responsibility and views directly in front of potential customers.
- Volunteer events: Encouraging your employees to participate in volunteer events is another way to boost your reputation. Many companies plan volunteer events, budgeting to support the event and often even paying employees or offering comp time in exchange for their participation.
There’s also the question of what cause to associate your business with. Here are some factors to consider:
- A cause associated with your industry: If your company sells pet products, for example, you can safely assume that your customers will support animal welfare causes.
- Local efforts: This is helpful for companies with a brick-and-mortar location or with a strong local or regional association. Show your customers that when they purchase from your business, part of their money will go into community causes, such as education initiatives.
- General causes: If you’re not sure which industry local cause would be the best fit for your target market, consider general causes such as organizations that support public health, research diseases, fight hunger and homelessness, or support the disabled.
When selecting a cause or charity, don’t be afraid to make it a personal choice!
Another factor to consider is how your company impacts the environment. You don’t have to produce and sell eco-friendly products to take to improve your sustainability reputation. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your company’s environmental impact:
- Packaging: Using minimal packaging made out of recycled materials is a good start. While this many not be the first thing customers notice, it is noticed and frequently posted on social media when companies used excessive packaging.
- Reducing carbon footprints: To reduce your company’s overall carbon footprint, consider reducing travel, using fuel-efficient company vehicles, and purchasing energy-efficient equipment.
- Environmental philanthropy: Choosing an environmental organization as your social cause can improve customer sentiment toward your company.
Whatever plan you implement, promote it. Include information to your company store or website about charitable activities and volunteer events. If you plan to donate sales proceeds to a charity, mention it in product descriptions or marketing campaigns. It shouldn’t be the focus of your website or marketing efforts, but make sure customers and candidates can find it easily.
For more on this topic, see Purpose-Led Organizations: Another Buzzword Or Something More?