Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is vital not just for the environment, society, and the world at large, but for your company’s reputation.
Commendable CSR strategies improve consumer trust, company recommendations and brand sentiment. And here’s the best part…These all lead to increased revenue for corporations and small businesses alike. But corporate social responsibility benefits extend far beyond sales.
Socially responsible businesses also build a buffer against scandals and other reputation busters. Why? Because online publishers are more likely to write positive articles about your brand when you do good deeds. As a result, Google will have much more positive content to offset anything negative that may pop up in the future.
But there’s a catch:
You have to promote your efforts. Nobody can write positive articles about your brand if you don’t spread the word. I’m sure you know that consumers, employees, and other stakeholders value social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
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Best Corporate Social Responsibility Examples
When companies go above and beyond what’s expected environmentally or socially, they’re engaging in corporate social responsibility. Did you catch that? It’s pretty important.
Government regulations already limit pollution and ensure that companies practice certain human rights standards. So companies can’t toot their own horn if they’re just following the law. However, brands that go the extra mile are employing exemplary CSR initiatives.
Socially responsible companies and business leaders care about more than the financial bottom line. They adjust their business strategies to positively impact society and the environment.
These are the most common examples of corporate social responsibility:
- Reduce carbon footprints to mitigate climate change
- Improve labor policies and embrace fair trade
- Engage in charitable giving and volunteer efforts within your community
- Change corporate policies to benefit the environment
- Make socially and environmentally conscious investments
Let’s dive into some of the most impactful corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Improve labor policies and embrace fair trade
News flash: Job applicants aren’t eager to apply for positions that offer the bare minimum compensation.
Conversely, employees deserve to be generously reimbursed for the time and work they dedicate to their company. Brands that improve working conditions and well-being for all employees — including fair trade partnerships — can see big returns in the form of a happy and productive workforce.
Think about it. The happier your employees are, the lower your turnover is likely to be. And turnover is expensive.
For example, Netflix offers their employees 52 weeks of paid parental leave, which applies to both parents. Within that time, employees have the option of going back to work and then resuming their paid leave as it suits them. No matter how they choose to take their leave of absence, they receive their full salary for the entirety of its duration. Netflix also offers unlimited vacation time to their workers, as does LinkedIn.
Spotify’s benefits include 24 weeks of paid leave for both moms and dads, which can be divvied up however they choose over the three years following a child’s birth.
However, you don’t need to make grand gestures like these to improve employee morale. Introducing more natural lighting, soft seating and plants into the workplace can boost energy and attitudes around the office.
Engage in charitable giving and volunteer
The pharmaceutical company Pfizer makes the list of corporations that give. They raise awareness for non-infectious diseases and work to provide healthcare to women and children who struggle with adequate care. The company’s philanthropic activities also include supplying multi-dose vials of its vaccine Prevenar 13 at the price of just a few dollars for one dose.
Financial giant Wells Fargo sets an annual goal to donate up to 1.5% of its revenue to charitable causes such as NeighborWorks. Besides financial donations, Wells Fargo employees are given two paid days off a year to volunteer, which is indicative of a growing trend among corporations. Over half of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For offer paid leave specifically to encourage their workers to give back to their local community. Motivating your employees to get involved in CSR activities is an easy way to strengthen your corporate citizenship.
Change corporate policies to benefit the environment
Hydrofluorocarbons, a chemical coolant that is commonly used in cold-storage facilities, is one of the most prevalent GHGs in the atmosphere. That’s why, in 2015, Target pledged to open new facilities that elected to use ammonia to modulate the temperature instead.
Cleaning product company Method does its part to create sustainable products by packaging its dish and hand soap using plastic recovered from the ocean to be “as kind to the planet as they are tough on dirt.” It stays true to its mission in other ways too. Method uses wind energy to power its production plants and makes its soap as biodegradable as possible.
Here are some ways socially responsible companies can help the environment.
- Hold an annual tree-planting event.
- Set up recycling bins throughout your facilities
- Minimize your amount of paper waste
- Permit remote work to reduce the negative impact of commuter traffic
- Switch from incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving LED bulbs.
- Make socially and environmentally conscious investments
Socially Responsible Companies
When the social responsibility efforts of businesses become part of company culture, people take notice. These socially conscious companies are leading the charge in making the world a better place.
TOMS is known for their business model of providing one pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair of shoes they sell. As admirable as that goal is, their fight for human rights extends well beyond that. They also partner up with a number of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other nonprofit organizations to demonstrate ethical behavior. TOMS also helps to restore vision to visually-impaired individuals, provides clean drinking water and builds businesses in developing countries and fights bullying.
Coca-Cola continues to make strides toward aiding in the alleviation of environmental issues. After realizing that its fleet of delivery trucks accounted for 3.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in 2014, Coca-Cola made significant changes to its supply chain like investing in trucks that are powered by alternative fuels. Those changes should support the company’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2020.
Ford Motor Company
Ford is another corporation attempting to improve their environmental performance. In an effort to reduce its GHG emissions, an EcoBoost engine was developed to increase fuel efficiency and the company hopes to offer 13 new electric vehicle models by 2020. In addition, American Ford dealerships now use wind sail and solar PV systems as their primary power source.
Dell now contributes to environmental management by shipping their laptops in less wasteful containers using more eco-friendly materials.
Other top brands investing in CSR:
- Bosch invests half of its research and development budget in environmental protection technology.
- In 2016, GE donated $88 million to community and educational programs.
- Starbucks promises to be a socially responsible company by hiring 25,000 veterans before 2025.
- New Belgium Brewing Company strives to be a sustainable business by using solar panels to power their bottling plant as well as an anaerobic digester to convert wastewater into energy, and their employees use bikes to get around the brewery.
There are plenty of ways for your company to increase its humanitarian efforts and contribute to global sustainable development. Not sure where to begin? Check out the ISO 26000 for some great advice to improve your business environment.
Best CSR Companies in 2018
It’s a good idea to look to the leaders to see who is doing well and why their business stands out. To see how you compare, here’s the 2018 World’s Most Reputable Companies for Corporate Responsibility rankings, according to the Reputation Institute’s CSR RepTrak:
- The Walt Disney Company
- Novo Nordisk
Google notably earned the Reputation Institute’s highest CSR score by implementing the following reductions in environmental impact:
- Data centers use less power, with 50% less energy than other comparable data centers
- Google contributes to renewable energy, committing more than $1 billion to renewable energy projects
- The company enables businesses to decrease their own environmental impact by using Gmail
Why is Corporate Social Responsibility Important?
Corporate citizenship matters because companies typically have great resources to enact real, positive change. But beyond the satisfaction of knowing they’re bettering the world, what’s in it for the companies? The answer to that question is quite a bit — and a lot of it has to do with building a great online reputation.
The most important benefit of a CSR program is trust.
Let me put it this way: If a company does the right thing environmentally and socially, consumers feel they can trust them to do the right thing in all situations. Further, when consumers purchase a product, they feel they’re directly responsible for how that product was made — for better or worse.
That’s why the Reputation Institute has found that a higher corporate responsibility ranking leads to more supportive consumer behaviors. And this translates to big benefits for brands!
These CSR statistics are insane:
- 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 patronize companies that are committed to CSR
- 3.2x increase in trust when a company’s reputation score goes from “average” to “excellent”
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Corporate Responsibility Offers Protection Against Most Scandals
Let’s be honest. The bigger your company, the more likely you’ll be drawn into a scandal.
A healthy CSR program also doubles as reputation protection. Research from the University of Dayton and Virginia Tech indicates that strong social responsibility offers a shield against scandals. But the benefits go deeper than protection.
You’ll also be more likely to bounce back from negative information. Perhaps more importantly, it creates a reputation of reliability and honesty, which is always valuable whether you’re facing scandals or not.
Research from Boston University and Baruch College suggests that with good corporate social responsibility, companies can build a “reservoir of goodwill.” This goodwill will increase customer motivation to minimize any negative information they may discover in search results.
Further research from the University of California, Berkeley finds that corporate citizenship can essentially serve as reputation insurance. It can protect firms from sustaining long-term damage following adverse events, and them recover more quickly.
So companies can actually make the world a better place while bulwarking their online reputation. That’s a win-win situation.Want some data to back up that claim?
The Berkeley team performed an analysis of stock price responses for S&P 500 companies after product recalls. The research found that firms with better corporate social responsibility ratings maintained higher stock prices than firms with a lower corporate citizenship scores.
Ultimately, companies that are able to do good in an exceptional manner will suffer virtually no reputational damage following adverse events.
Good Corporate Citizenship Attracts Top Talent
Ok. It’s great to help the environment. But what about your bottom line?
Think about your human resources department. Many employees are proud to work for a company with a good reputation. Studies show that millennials in particular hold it in very high regard.
Giving back is great for making an impact and improving reputation and trust. But it’s also essential for the recruitment and retention of top talent. Strong corporate citizens often find that they are able to attract top talent, raise productivity, and maintain high employee engagement.
A Warning Against Greenwashing
Listen up!This part is super important:
Most corporations establish CSR programs to genuinely give back, and they use considerable resources to make a positive impact on the world. However, there are some that cultivate the image of a socially responsible organization simply for the marketing benefits.
This disingenuous form of “giving back” is known as greenwashing, and it’s an example of bad corporate social responsibility. Rather than actually engaging in social or environmental improvements, corporations may simply spin their advertising and reputation marketing to make it seem as if they’re doing a good thing.
Greenwashing takes many forms. For example, a bank may claim to be “green” because it offers online banking. However, their energy usage to offer this service may be generating greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. Or perhaps an energy company is promoting its new clean technology while 98 percent of its fuel is still dirty.
Greenwashing may fool some consumers temporarily, but it will ultimately ruin your reputation. Authenticity is essential to building trust. Consumers who feel they’ve been misled by a company’s advertising may never trust your organization again.
Next we’ll cover the most important part of this article: Promoting your CSR program.
Maximizing the Benefits of CSR
Many companies are aware of the benefits of corporate responsibility. But businesses need to better communicate their corporate social responsibility programs to the general public. Customers love to support brands that do good. And all the positive press will help build an unshakeable online reputation for your brand.
Don’t be afraid to highlight your company’s CSR. Think of it less as a marketing ploy and more as something that’s worth doing for the positive ripple effect it could have. It’s also a more organic way to enhance your online reputation, because news media and other outlets are likely to write about your initiatives and link back to you.
CSR greatly improves the effectiveness of your Corporate reputation management strategy. Whether your goals are to protect your brand or recover from a crisis, you’ll get there more quickly when others are publishing positive content about your company.
Effective ways to promote your CSR efforts
Align your efforts with your brand
Choose CSR initiatives that work authentically with your established brand. Not only is it a more natural fit, but your activities will directly impact your customer base.
Don’t overlook local initiatives
Global causes are undoubtedly critical, but don’t neglect what’s happening right in your backyard. Build strategies around soup kitchens, food banks, homeless shelters, schools and senior citizens. You’ll make a difference and increase brand visibility among your customer base.
Advertise charitable efforts
Post flyers in your windows or near your cash registers. You could also write a blog post or create a section on your website calling out your charitable giving. Some brands also leverage social media to amplify giving and positive mentions.
Involve your customers
Encourage consumers to donate to the good causes you champion. Ask them to give at the point of sale or donate a certain percentage of your proceeds to charity.
Focus your attention
Concentrate on just a few charities. This will make you appear more authentic and less like your business is trying fake goodwill for profit.
Be more interactive
Encourage word-of-mouth communication by participating in activities that are easily shareable on social media. Use relatable images and videos to bring awareness to your good deeds.
Encourage further giving
Ask consumers and other stakeholders to join you in your mission for giving. Gently prompt them to contribute their time, money, and other resources to the causes and initiatives that you highlight.
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