As part of Jeffrey’s exclusive membership with the Kansas City Business Journal Leadership Trust, his most recent article takes a deep dive into the world of corporate social responsibility and why it should be a main component of your business plan. Click here to access the article in the Kansas City Business Journal or read on!
Co-Founder + CEO
It’s no secret that if companies want to survive (and thrive) in the next decade, they must be responsive to customer demands and expectations. And what do customers want now? The answer: Companies that make a public commitment to philanthropy and improving their communities through corporate social responsibility (CSR). Many businesses have long considered CSR to be an afterthought – more of a public relations exercise than a main component of their business plan. But my experience suggests that CSR should be a major focus for every company.
Here are my top four reasons your company should embrace CSR in 2020 and beyond.
Make way for millennials
Millennials are the fastest-growing force in the consumer marketplace. As we prepare for the great wealth transfer, this generation will be at their peak buying power in the next decade. That means you can’t ignore the hype. Studies show that millennials place enormous value on CSR, and slightly more than 9 out of 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause that aligns with their values. If your competitors are doing CSR while you sit back, you’re at risk of losing this generation of consumers.
Whatever cause you choose to support, make sure to be authentic and honest with your practices. This generation demands transparency and an open dialogue with the companies they support, so be prepared to put your money where your mouth is.
Positive brand recognition
A socially responsible company projects a more attractive image to consumers — millennials or otherwise. Whether your company is practicing CSR through donations or employee volunteering or by implementing environmentally conscious processes, consumers feel good when they buy products and services from companies that are making a positive impact on their communities. (And chances are, you feel great offering them.)
So make sure to shout about your CSR programs. Posting, tweeting and sharing how you are trying to make a positive impact on the world will only strengthen your public image. But again, be careful to avoid the appearance of false advertising. Any gaps between your company’s words and actions can be easily brought to light and put on trial via social media.
Increased customer loyalty
Customers are more willing to be loyal to your brand if your corporate values align with their personal values, and CSR programs are a great way to showcase your corporate values. Companies like Toms shoes and New Belgium Brewing Company are doing a great job of focusing on specific values and making a real, measurable impact. Toms’ focus from the beginning has been on giving away shoes to people in need. New Belgium is hyper-focused on sustainability and eco-philanthropy. Both companies have loyal customer bases that know what they stand for and share their values. Consumers know their money is going toward more than just shoes and beer.
Attract, engage and retain employees
CSR is a recruitment tool and an important driver of employee engagement. Just like consumers want to support companies that share their values, they also want to work for them. Giving your employees the opportunity to volunteer creates a sense of community and common cause in your organization. From working with clients to help them develop philanthropic giving plans, I have learned that employees are eager to volunteer and give back to their communities, but they don’t want to do it alone. Many view CSR as an opportunity to build camaraderie among colleagues and are more likely to participate if it’s a team effort.
A strong CSR message also encourages employee buy-in. They will be more invested in growing the company if their impact goes beyond the bottom line. And, employees who are active in the community can serve as brand ambassadors for your company.
The bottom line? CSR is a win-win
It’s pretty simple: A strong CSR program has the potential to strengthen your bottom line and have a positive impact on the world. And the good news is, it’s never too late to start making a difference. For those who are new to CSR, I recommend looking at your current sustainability practices and assessing your company’s values. In the process of mapping out your CSR message, stay focused, and try not to take on too much. Your time and resources are limited, so focus on areas of opportunity where you can maximize your impact on society.
And most importantly, find the right organization to partner with. Collaboration can be very difficult, so do your due diligence, and make sure there’s synergy before your move forward. The most successful partnerships revolve around a mutual benefit and trust between the two parties. A simple way to engage and vet nonprofit partners is to provide detailed criteria on your website that outlines your company’s philanthropic priorities so that nonprofits understand your focus from the get-go.
It’s never too late to start making a difference. I hope this inspires you to consider what your business has to offer society in the coming decade and beyond.