There’s no denying that good business in 2019 is rooted in brands doing good. But this new business movement needs to be deep-rooted. We need to go further than greenwashing and good washing our brand if we want to go beyond a surface-level armchair activism – or clicktivism – response from consumers. Here’s what these terms mean, how to implement CSR in your marketing strategy, and vice versa.

In her recent Meltwater Webinar Jeanne du Plessis, Corporate Affairs and Citizenship Leader at Procter and Gamble (P&G) South Africa, said that marketing with CSR at its heart can change the world.

This ties in with the rise of purpose-led marketing. In case you’re wondering, Nike is the current clear king – or make that queen – of purpose marketing, with Du Plessis stating their Dream Crazy work is some of her favourite “CSR in Marketing” at the moment.

Instead of simply punting underdog athletes Colin Kaepernick and Serena Williams, the ads pan further afield to tap into the current culture of social activism, of standing up for what you believe in and proving you have what it takes to win.

It’s a sentiment echoed by many, with Kim Winstanley, Worx Group’s Chief Growth Officer sharing in her #BizTrends2019 prediction that going green has never been more golden.

Winstanley said the year 2018 was packed with environmental buzzwords. “Sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” “low-carbon footprint,” and “upcycle” are just some of the words that she’s used to hearing in conversations with clients, and for good reason.

An example of upcycling – a new trend rapidly gaining popularity 

Brands, Meet the New Urban Consumers of 2019

Transparency is key in this regard as committing to going green without actually meaning it, is the least cool thing you can do today. Khumo Theko, trend spotter at Flux Trends, recently identified new urban tribes that brands should be aware of when communicating to their consumers.

One of her stand-out points is that the consumer of 2019 is consciously diverse – businesses need to wake up to the understanding that just because you have identified a millennial, they don’t necessarily fit into a prescribed box. There are various cohorts that are connected, socially motivated and globally connected, but all stand for something different.

As a result, brands are progressing from brand activism to morality marketing and strengthening their brand humanity.

Celebrating Work That Creates Shared Value

Talking through the importance of brand humanity and problem-solving in creativity, especially against the continued shift away from merely punting the client product or service, Loeries CEO Andrew Human recently stated that it’s becoming more and more important that brands are questioned about their social relevance as well as their environmental and social impact.

That’s the crux of their newish shared value category. When it launched a few years ago, it was an anomaly and difficult to even explain, yet nowadays, it’s almost becoming the norm.

It’s something that brands and corporates are striving for: to show their business adds value. It’s something that consumers are looking more and more to see – how do brands add value to my environment?

Globally, the Cannes Lions festival of creativity also celebrate work that confronts prejudice and inequality through the Glass Lions or Lion for Change – just think of the impact and talking power of the most recent winner, Fearless Girl, for an idea of the scale of that impact.

But the movement goes beyond the more creative industries, with all business sectors noting they can make more impact by doing more for the world around us.

fearless girl - csr in marketingThe Fearless Girl statue in New York City, USA.

For example, at the recent YPO Edge conference held in Cape Town, King James Group founder and YPO member James Barty confirmed this is more than pie-in-the-sky thinking. In fact, he said he’s noticed a move toward doing good business and making an impact beyond your bottom line.

Barty pointed out that clued-in businesses are now making a conscious effort to make an impact and ease some of the world’s social ills. So it’s not just in the name of business and making your own brand the best it can be, but about having an impact beyond business.

But your good intentions need to be exceeded by your actions. Unfortunately, it’s easy to excitedly veer off into the space of brand warrior before you’ve really done the groundwork and found an idea to work on. And today’s socially conscious consumer is quick to point out when something smells a little too good to be true.

What to Avoid

“Wash, rinse, repeat” your business mantra of choice? Not so fast.

Greenwashing is a form of white-washing with an environmental angle. So instead of masking unpleasant facts in a political context, greenwashing implies your company has falsely conveyed social or environmental responsibility.

You may remember Heathrow airport coming under fire for this a few years ago, with naysayers slating its proposed eco-sanctuary living wall or Garden Gate as merely masking its expansion plans with a proposed new runway.

True investment in CSR means you go beyond seeing Corporate Social Responsibility as a corporate box to tick or significant donation to a worthy cause once a year – to a genuine belief that by “doing good,” you are doing good business.

That’s not to say that profit is no longer a focal point of any business, but rather that “doing good” has blossomed into more than that. Brands with what are now called “social impact” are everywhere as a result of the blurred dichotomy between “for good” and “for-profit,” meaning we have reached a point where brands can no longer, nor should no longer, stay silent about broad-reaching issues.

The Secret to Doing Good Business

Du Plessis continues to say that if the clichéd image of two hands holding a seedling is what first comes to mind when you think of CSR, your brand needs a serious rethink – CSR is not just a charity project your company runs on the side.

But Du Plessis says, as an outsider to a societal issue, it doesn’t do any good to storm in and try to fix things if you haven’t talked to those affected by the problem.


For instance, before you rush in to paint a classroom, take the time to listen. You need to understand the root problem to make a real change. Then you need to see how that ties in with your brand values. You need to understand the root problem to make a real change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do it all yourself.


Collaborate with your well-placed business partners for an effective solution. Find out what really inconveniences the teachers and scholars alike. It’s more likely that a daily drop off of bread, or a new set of textbooks and a stationery replenishment mid-year from one of your suppliers will make a bigger impact than having the classroom painted in rainbow colours and proudly posted as your Pride act for the year. Once you’ve found a solution that really benefits all, that’s the only time to wash, rinse repeat.

Candice Goodman, MD of Mobitainment and IAB Education Council member summed this up best at the IAB’s recent Insight series event, explaining how technology can improve lives. In describing an example of an app that alleviates hunger in the world, she said: “Hunger is not a scarcity problem; it is a logistics problem. This app bridges the divide between the supply and the demand for food as it matches a surplus of food to needy organisations. Technology is not about the bits and bytes, but how we use technology for good.”

And that, in turn, is how we do good business. So follow Du Plessis’ advice – take the time to identify your core brand values, and how those work to better society and the environment around us. Then make sure you’re putting in the time, not just the financial resources, to make the projects succeed.

For more insights on The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility in Marketing, click to watch our free, on-demand Webinar with P&G below:

the role of corporate social responsibility in marketing - meltwater africa and p&g