CSR…that’s when large corporations donate huge sums of money to social causes, right? Well, not exactly. Corporate social responsibility is a deceptive term, as it includes that scary ‘C’ word, but essentially it means a business is operating ethically and responsibly across the triple bottom line (socially, environmentally, and financially). It is also something that is absolutely achievable for your business…without the overwhelming price tag associated with this type of strategy. In fact, entrepreneurs are some of the most powerful people to implement socially responsible strategies. This is because as passionate people, entrepreneurs rarely start a business with the sole purpose of making a lot of money, but rather they are usually committed to fulfilling some kind of social need, making them of the mindset to limit social grievances.
Why Do It?
Engaging in a CSR strategy is not only appreciated by consumers these days, but almost expected. In fact, the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study showed that 80% of consumers are willing to buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong CSR commitments, and a similar study by Nielsen showed 55% say they are actually willing to pay more for products and services committed to creating positive social and environmental impacts. Unfortunately, this makes many small- and medium-sized businesses feel like they are ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ when it comes to CSR, and it feels like a burden that they don’t have the extra capital to put towards.
However, this shouldn’t be the case. Participating in CSR can actually bring your business a lot of benefit, including: strengthened brand reputation, enhanced trust with key stakeholders, improved loyalty from customers, increased revenues and growth, and establishing new relationships. The results from a year-over-year analysis done by Nielsen showed that products with sustainability claims on the packaging had an average annual sales increase double that of those without sustainability claims or marketing, and products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs had an astounding average of 5x the sales increase than those without. This is evidence that consumers really appreciate a company’s efforts to be a positive participant in the community, and they are willing to put their money where their mouth is when they see it in action.
Gaining these benefits doesn’t need to cost you a lot of money in sponsorships or donations, it can be done with a commitment of time, effort, and passion.
Here are 5 suggestions for implementing an affordable, yet effective, CSR strategy:
- Be genuine in your approach. Customers will see right through you trying to buy their love with the latest trend in socially responsible marketing campaigns. Engage your employees and customers by finding out what causes they’re passionate about. Try to pick something that resonates with them, and also aligns with your company’s values, culture, and the product or service you are selling.
- Campaign for a cause. After discovering what cause will bring your team and your customers together, run a campaign to raise money for it. This way, you are being the driving force behind raising the funds, without having to donate the lump sum yourself. Your role is spreading the word in order to bring resources to a cause your business is proud to attach its name to. The fundraising efforts can be through social media to maximize awareness, and through in-store advertisements.
- Volunteer locally. Sign up your staff to volunteer for an organization once a month as a team, or allow them to choose where they would like to volunteer their time a certain amount of times per year. This is a great opportunity to help out local organizations while making your presence known in the community. It’s also great for team bonding!
- Donate In-Kind. Whether it’s donating your actual product or service, or lending your expertise, this is an easy way to give back. You could donate to a charity auction, lend a hand to someone you know is in need, or host an event for people to come to learn from you who otherwise could not afford it.
- Let people know what you are doing. Of course, this is a part of the business strategy – to actually market what you are doing in the community. This does not make the positive things you are doing any less genuine, it just allows your customers to connect to what you are doing and feel a sense of loyalty to your brand if they also connect to that cause. Make a video of the day your team volunteered, or write a blog post about it to share on your social media. Consumers will want to know you are making a difference in their community and they will respect you for it.
At the end of the day, don’t do it because it’s ‘trendy,’ do it because you’re passionate about it and it aligns with your business values. You’ll be amazed at what a genuine CSR strategy can do for the culture at your workplace, your relationships with customers, and the financial portion of that triple bottom line.