Thanks to the advent of the internet, today’s consumers are more informed and discriminating than ever. And they’re not just looking for the best product at the best price—they’re also looking to support companies whose values and beliefs align with their own. The number of picky consumers is expected to increase as highly socially-conscious millennial and Generation Z consumers come of age.
However, it’s not only customer-facing businesses that need to be concerned about cultivating a brand of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Even B2B businesses stand to significantly benefit from cultivating a strong reputation for social responsibility. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to CSR, though. No matter what your industry, service, or market, there are a variety of CSR strategies that will serve both your brand and your bottom line.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility and Why is it Important?
Corporate social responsibility has become something of a catch-all phrase, but all it really refers to are business practices that seek to serve the social good rather than (or in addition to) the pursuit of profit. This can involve everything from the institution of environmentally-friendly business practices to participation in community improvement initiatives to the deployment of equitable hiring and workforce management strategies. If you want an example of customer-facing companies who have pioneered CSR, just think Patagonia when it comes to the environment or Starbucks when it comes to labor.
Even B2B companies, however, can profit—literally and figuratively—from the reputation-enhancing benefits of CSR. The key is transparency: ensure that your clients, stakeholders, and partners are absolutely clear on your company’s specific CSR practices. The best way to do this is to build your CSR brand into your marketing and promotional platforms. You can even create a dedicated webpage on your company’s site detailing your company’s values and the work it is doing to make the world a better place.
Whether your company is primarily community- or business-oriented, cultivating a socially-responsible business model starts with the people you hire and partner with. Instituting recruiting practices with a focus on populations that have traditionally been marginalized in the labor force is a great first step. Focus on recruiting-qualified, but typically underserved applicants, such as women, minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and veterans.
Show Me Your Friends
If your company seeks to build a strong, consistent CSR brand, then cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce is only stage one. You also must be mindful of the organizations, partners, clients, and services associated with your company. Affiliate marketing based on partnerships with organizations whose CSR brand is already well-established is a fantastic way to borrow from your affiliates’ CSR credentials as your company continues to build its own.
No Planet B
When you think of CSR, one of the first and most important things to consider is environmental sustainability. Most customers, whether consumer or commercial, want the businesses they support to engage in Earth-friendly practices, from composting and emissions reductions to reusing and recycling materials wherever and whenever possible.
You might also consider reducing your company’s carbon footprint by taking some, or all, of your operations online. If your company is a B2B or B2C supplier, for example, you may be able to eliminate or reduce your warehouse operations by partnering with a reputable and high-performing shipper, such as Aliexpress.
Hit the Books
Cultivating a reputation for corporate excellence through CSR is no simple matter. Depending on the types of CSR programs your company undertakes, the learning curve can be steep, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are scores of excellent online MBA programs to help you cultivate the expertise you need to efficiently and effectively fold CSR into your business model, using these strategies to build an unsurpassed reputation for both performance and social stewardship.
The global marketplace today is more crowded and competitive than ever before. Amid a seemingly endless variety of choices, customers—both consumer and commercial—are seeking to do business with companies they perceive to share their own morals and values. Cultivating a robust and consistent reputation for corporate social responsibility can help to differentiate your company from even its fiercest competitors. Building a brand that is based on ethical hiring and workforce management, partnerships with CSR-branded organizations, and a standard practice-oriented toward the protection and preservation of the environment will optimize the company’s reputation and drive customer acquisition and retention.
Making the shift toward CSR is no mean feat, however, and training may be required to successfully enact CSR initiatives institution-wide. In an environment where market demand for CSR-branded companies is significant and growing, taking steps now to build a robust CSR-driven reputation can secure your company’s prosperity for tomorrow—and for many tomorrows to come.