Corporate Social Responsibility and Ecommerce: How to Run an Ethical Online Store

For ecommerce businesses, being socially responsible should be a part of any business model. Not only can you support the causes you care about—you can also show your company's transparency and allow the public to support these efforts. Here are a few steps to help your corporation with various types of self-governing regulations, corporate social responsibility, and marketing for charitable giving.

Defining Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a type of corporate citizenship that helps a company identify practices and programs they will hold themselves accountable to in their business model and work culture.

Often, the business will reserve an area on their website for customers, clients, and the general public to see how the business engages in corporate social responsibility. This can be part of the business’s marketing strategy to build their brand image.

CSR has many benefits and serves several purposes. It provides a framework for how businesses will do the following:

Maintain Compliance

A company may choose to self-regulate in order to avoid legal ramifications that can come with audits. By following the laws and guidelines established nationally and internationally, this can keep legal costs lower and reduce negative press by showing transparency and accurate bookkeeping.

Increase Employee Loyalty With Fair Hiring Practices

Companies may choose to incorporate fair wages and fair hiring practices as part of their corporate social responsibility. By offering fair salaries, showing non-discriminatory and non-sexist practices, and working with professional moral codes, they can attract and retain loyal employees. This reduces turnover, lawsuits, and negative press.

Ensure a Positive Business Reputation

To ensure that their brand is perceived positively, businesses may work to address negative sentiment online and display positive advertisements on the website and through other forms of media. This demonstrates awareness of public opinion and can help reassure shareholders and stakeholders who hold the business and its leaders accountable.

Work in Local Communities

A business may choose to work among their local communities or support community projects through volunteer efforts and financial donations. They may work with customers on various shared causes and projects. These projects are often in the form of fundraisers that involve the company's customers and employees in the community.

Show Environmental Awareness

The business may choose to recycle, reduce waste consumption, and leave a smaller carbon footprint. They may elect to use sustainable products, decrease their energy usage, and support causes in their communities and abroad that have green initiatives.

Display Social Awareness

On a larger scale, the business may support humanitarian efforts and help fight diseases in third-world countries. They may seek ways to donate funds for natural disaster victims and show that their business has taken an interest in the welfare of the global population, not just in their immediate community.

Methods for Demonstrating CSR

When working on a CSR platform for your ecommerce business, take a look at how other businesses demonstrate CSR in their communities, on websites, and in their advertisements.

Many businesses promote CSR with a tagline, logo, slogan, or message. This messaging can create awareness about a cause or promise a specific effort. When a business demonstrates how they met a goal or fulfilled a need for a charitable organization, that achievement gets incorporated into customers' perception of the business. Consider the following examples:

  • Starbucks is one example of a business with a strong CSR. The company looks for ways to sustain the environment. They use C.A.F.E. Practices to ensure the ethical sourcing of their coffee and list charitable causes they support on their site. Additionally, Starbucks supports a project called the Ethos Water Fund that helps provide over a billion people with clean water.
  • Another example of a company with a strong social awareness program is TOMS Shoes. With over 60 million shoes donated to needy children by 2016, TOMS's CSR is very impressive. Their slogan or tagline indicates that for every pair of shoes they sell, a pair will be donated to a needy child.
  • NuSkin is a skin care company with a big initiative. They set up their own Force For Good Foundation, and their Nourish the Children initiative has donated over 550 million meals.

CSR Marketing

If you want to effectively leverage CSR for your brand, there are a few key elements to building a social responsibility program. The following tips will help you improve your public image, demonstrate good will, increase trust, and build a better reputation:

  • Choose a cause that reflects the brand, and create a social responsibility program around it
  • Communicate company actions that are relevant to the program and get employees (brand ambassadors), customers, and clients involved
  • Demonstrate the actions you took to support the program; use social media platforms to tell stories about the program and the community it supports
  • Advertise and run marketing campaigns to promote your program
  • Use promotional materials like newsletters, press releases, and email blasts to increase brand awareness; be sincere and truthful
  • Involve the media, generate good press, and show how your social responsibility efforts differ from those of your competitors (but don't boast; be subtle)


There are many ways to make your business socially responsible. Be sincere and transparent about the information you share. Above all, you should find a cause that reflects your brand and its mission. When your business supports causes that your employees and customers are passionate about, those efforts will resonate with the public, shareholders, stakeholders, and ultimately the communities they support.