What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?
In our hyper-connected world, no one is operating in a silo.
Our day-to-day decisions and business practices impact those around us, even if we can’t always see the effects.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reflects a businesses’ accountability to community and society through different social and environmental measures.
Now more than ever, CSR plays a role in the perception of your brand — especially on social media.
Why Does It Matter?
Think back to spring 2020 — was there a local restaurant providing much-needed meals to healthcare workers in your city? What about your favorite brand donating to causes you feel passionate about?
These are examples of corporate social responsibility in action.
Cultural expectations of brands have evolved at lightning speed, expedited due to the pandemic and social media’s cross-generational impact. During the height of COVID, consumers turned to brands for answers, assurance and advice. Many retail and consumer facing brands stepped up to the task, sharing how they were helping their communities and aiding those in need. If a brand wasn’t participating in CSR prior to COVID, the pandemic was likely a turning point for them — as we all sat inside scrolling on our phones, we were looking for glimpses of humanity and compassion.
Today, brands are almost expected to go beyond transactional relationships with consumers.
How a brand aligns with our world impacts buying decisions more than ever. For example, 59% of consumers worldwide said they will boycott brands that fail to act on climate change.
In another study from Reuters, a quarter of Americans said they are actively boycotting a brand or product they previously spent money on due to social, political or environmental issues.
It’s important to know what you stand for: as a company and as people.
It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
CSR isn’t an unchecked free-for-all.
Abundance of information goes both ways; meaning, if your brand touts all the good they’re doing but can’t back it up, consumers will find out.
In the wake of CSR becoming trendy in 2020, 2021 and 2022, consumers began using social media to challenge messaging from brands.
“If you donated to cause X, then why did you donate to cause Y in 2015?”
“This social media post says you donated to organization B, but your CEO just wrote about organization C – which supports everything organization B is against! So, what’s the truth?”
You can see how potential scrutiny gets tricky for a brand to manage. To make sure your brand is participating in CSR in an impactful, transparent way, check out our tips below.
3 Steps to Align Your Brand With Social Responsibility
1. Look at Causes Already Close to Your Brand’s Heart
Depending on your industry, there may be causes you’re already aligned with. Perhaps a member of your team, leadership bench or a founder has a special connection to a worthy cause, whether it’s cancer research or social justice. What matters is selecting a cause that is reputable and in sync with your brand’s values, goals and mission.
You may want to take a look at causes you’re already championing and make your brand’s voice louder. If environmentally friendly packaging is a key component of your product, why not take it a step further and figure out additional ways your brand can help the earth? For a quick start on how to become part of the environmental conversation, check out this article from Goodway Group CEO Jay Friedman.
2. Pick Something and Stick With It
It can be tempting to jump on every social responsibility trend — the newest charity, a recent disaster or trending conversation. However, this isn’t what CSR is about. The key here is authenticity and alignment.
Think of it like this: Your brand doesn’t market to everyone. In turn, your corporate social responsibility can’t support everyone either.
Don’t feel like your brand needs to spread itself thin and contribute to every conversation in the space.
3. Operate With Transparency and Honesty
Now, this is the real meat of CSR.
It’s not about putting on a show, throwing up graphics on social media touting amazing stats or getting great press coverage.
It really is about making the world a better place.
Brands and businesses wield the power to do this through their large spheres of influence, and with this privilege does come responsibility.
As Beyoncé once said, “If you’re gonna talk about it, be about it.”
Work from the mindset of serving consumers, the planet and one another — not bragging about donating goods to disaster relief to score a flashy photo opportunity. Stand by your brand values, support what’s important to you and your consumers, and operate with full transparency — this is how you avoid a dissonance between the good you say you’re doing and the reality.
If you need to chat with the experts on how your brand can be a part of today’s most impactful conversations, we’re here to help.