How the Enterprise Is Shifting Toward Corporate Social Responsibility and What It Means for Comms
In August 2019, one of the most influential business organizations in the world, the Business Roundtable, released a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. The Roundtable has periodically released such documents since 1978, serving as a kind of corporate compass for generations now. But, this newest release really turned heads.
The statement reads, “While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.” The organization laid out its commitment to customers and employees. It strongly advocated ethical and fair treatment of suppliers and support of communities, along with shareholder value.
Previously, the Business Roundtable had mainly emphasized supporting shareholders. The shift in emphasis from shareholders to stakeholders is being felt throughout the corporate world. Simply put, it means companies will concentrate more on CSR going forward.
Why Businesses Need to Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility
While the Roundtable’s announcement has generated plenty of debate, the idea of embracing CSR and stakeholder marketing is supported by research. A 2017 study by Cone Communications found that the American public puts high value on corporate social responsibility at big companies. In fact, 78% of survey respondents wanted companies to address social justice issues. 63% said they hoped American businesses will drive social and environmental change where government regulation lacks.
4 Ways Businesses Can Incorporate CSR into Comms and Marketing
A company that wants to improve its social responsibility efforts may choose to focus on a number of different activities and approaches:
1. Make Sure the World Knows You Care and Help
Corporations can embrace social philanthropy by making strategic donations to causes. It’s best for executives to find a nonprofit that aligns with company priorities. ties. Donate a percentage of your profits to the charity organization, hold an employee volunteer day, or sponsor joint events. Make sure the world learns about these efforts.
2. Make Changes to Your Products
It’s important for companies to focus on their own products or services. If a business takes the time to evaluate, rework, or make the product more socially responsible, that creates a valuable marketing opportunity. These changes could be anything from relocating production to a more ecofriendly factory, or changing policies to better support workers who provide your business’ daily services. They will also be viewed as an even deeper commitment to change that philanthropy.
3. Support Employees
Adopting practices and programs that support employees demonstrates an understanding and prioritizing of social responsibility. Given the high cost of college, loan forgiveness or college education contribution programs are a tremendous way to invest in employees. Starbucks is well-known for being one of only a few large companies that offers health insurance to part-time employees. Then make the most of employee brand ambassadors in your marketing.
4. Go Local
It’s easy to get swept up in the idea of grand changes on a national level. However, great opportunities to contribute to the local community exist too. Rather than donating to a national nonprofit, a business could do better to supply nearby schools or community centers with products, volunteer hours, or donation money, for example. This generates plenty of marketing opportunities.
3 Companies to Look to for Inspiration
1. Johnson & Johnson
CEOs and other executives are already coming out of the woodwork to laud their companies’ work in this area. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky posted a response to the Business Roundtable’s statement, identifying ways Johnson & Johnson already embraces the stakeholder approach through its business operations and marketing. He posted a link to the company’s credo, which emphasizes responsibility to customers and employees. It only highlights responsibility toward shareholders at the very end of the credo.
Investment management corporation BlackRock is also embracing the importance of CSR in its marketing. Chairman and CEO Larry Fink, drew attention to the link between a company’s purpose and profits in his 2019 letter to CEOs. BlackRock, which works mainly in the B2B sector, called on CEOs to lead by make positive changes through causes like helping employees navigate retirement.
Outdoor apparel and gear manufacturer Patagonia has also become a standout company for its public support of important causes. While its branding has always focused on preserving the environment, CEO Rose Marcario announced the company would donate the $10 million it saved as a result of President Trump’s 2018 tax cuts to environmental protection groups. Such a significant public action solidified the company’s reputation for genuine dedication to that cause.
CSR: The Future of Marketing and Business
The world of business and marketing is changing, and the Business Roundtable’s latest statement reflects those trends. With an increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility, businesses can truly give more attention to the people and communities that rely on them, and not just their stock price or investors. Shifting these priorities will help companies develop long-term, genuine support from audiences and ensure future profitability.
To learn how to make the most of CSR opportunities when communicating with the media, read our ebook on the latest best practices in media relations.