April 18, 2014
Many Americans view corporations as the real controllers of the free world, but they do not consider them to be benevolent businesses. Greed and extreme wealth are often associated with corporations and trust of them is at an all-time low. These reasons combined with the increasing awareness of environmental and social issues, such as sustainability, are why many companies and organizations are increasing their focus on corporate social responsibility efforts.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines corporate social responsibility (CSR) as “the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.”
Essentially, CSR is a management concept where businesses embrace responsibility for their social and environmental actions, and strive to have a positive impact on the community through their daily activities and policies. When done correctly, CSR can be cost effective (i.e. energy savings) and present a company in a more positive light to the public.
Now, more than ever before, consumers place a larger importance on buying from and supporting socially responsible companies who treat the environment and its employees with care. In a 2013 study by Good.Must.Grow., a socially responsible marketing agency, 60 percent of people said that buying goods from socially responsible companies was important to them.
This means that companies who commit to doing good and have public relations efforts in place to promote this goodwill, will ultimately benefit.
Here are some brands and businesses that are benefitting from their CSR initiatives while helping those around them:
Each week, this organization partners with a nonprofit to design a t-shirt specifically for their cause. $7 from each item sold during that week gets donated to the designated charity.
This company played a role in developing the Natural Standard for Personal Care Products, which creates guidelines for what can be labeled as natural. As a member of the Sustainable Packing Coalition, it also follows the highest standards for packaging sustainability.
“Ecomagination” increases awareness of how the company is using renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. The “Ecomagination” line includes products that improve both operating performance and environmental performance.
Starbucks focuses on acting responsibly and ethically, as well as on the sustainable production of green coffee. The company supports products like Ethos water that brings clean water to over 1 billion people worldwide.
The fashion company is a public supporter of Aids awareness and research. A full 100% of proceeds from sales of its “Awearness” products go to the fund.
An obvious supporter of sustainable agriculture and the reduction of waste, Whole Foods encourages environmentally sound cleaning and maintenance practices. The company also created a program that provides up to $10 million in low interest loans to small local producers to grow their business. It additionally fights poverty through microlending programs in rural communities around the world.
This Californian apparel company recently launched an initiative encouraging its customers to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle their clothing and equipment, rather than buying more.
Since 2008, this integrated marketing communications firm has donated more than $5 million in addition to volunteer work to sustainable causes that its employees and clients are passionate about. 10% of the company’s annual profits are divided between the employees so they can donate the money to charitable causes.
The business world is full of opportunities to make a positive impact and benefit the global community. CSR helps businesses operate in ways that benefit society and help improve the public perception of the company. The combination of sustainable business practices and welcomed promotional efforts by consumers means CSR may just be the future of public relations.
Kerry Tuttle is a senior studying Strategic Communication. You can follow her on Twitter at @kerrtut.