According to a research report by Gartner, 85 percent of millennials are more willing to buy from and recommend a brand that’s committed to social impact. When looking for a job, the same is true: a study done by research agency Achieve shows that a company’s commitment to social causes is the third most important reason that millennials will apply to work there. Once hired, 87 percent feel encouraged to lend a helping hand to support socially responsible company initiatives.
The idea of corporate social responsibility (sometimes abbreviated as CSR) has been around since the 1960s. Starting as a way for companies to counterbalance the negative impact that their businesses had on the environment or on society in general, the definition expanded in the 1990s to include more ethical and philanthropic initiatives unrelated to the functioning of a business. In recent years, it’s expanded even further to become the foundation of business strategy and product positioning.
From donating money, to volunteering time, participating in events, to brand positioning, corporate social responsibility boasts a lot of benefits besides the actual causes that it supports. These include:
- Brand awareness– showcasing your brand through its initiatives
- Customer engagement– allowing customers to feel as if they’re participating in socially responsible efforts
- Customer trust and loyalty– being transparent with your customers about your initiatives
- Customer advocacy– encouraging customers to promote your brand through its initiatives
- Employee engagement– encouraging employees to participate in socially responsible efforts.
The key to doing social responsibility right, is to make sure that it makes sense within the context of your business.
A lot needs to be taken into consideration before embarking on a strategy that will help your business become more socially responsible. And that’s what it needs to be– a strategy with long-term commitment. As Gartner’s report notes, your efforts should align with your company values; if they don’t, you risk hurting your company’s image or being accused of participating in social efforts solely for the benefit of your brand (and its bottom line).
Once you’ve fleshed out the answers to these questions, you can begin implementing a social impact program and start measuring its impact.
Companies that are required by law or regulation to meet certain social or environmental standards use dedicated software to measure the impact of their sustainability efforts; the impact of most other types of social responsibility are slightly more difficult to measure. There are, however, ways to do it.
Based on Gartner’s recommendations, success can be measured in three different areas: brand equity, employee engagement, and social impact.
People want to feel like they’re making a difference. Whether they’re buying your products or working for your company, they can satisfy their own altruistic need for philanthropy through your business’ social impact efforts. This customer perception, along with trust, loyalty, and employee engagement, are just a few of the runoff benefits of being socially responsible.
It should, however, begin with a genuine desire to do good, and make a significant positive impact. Without that, your business risks being called out for its transparent efforts at “doing good” for its own benefit.