4 Things Businesses Should Consider for Social Impact
How Authentic Advocacy Helps Businesses Connect with Consumers, Community and Workers.
Now more than ever, brand values are a benchmark for success. Impact-focused consumers like millennials and Gen Z are buying from brands that make a statement and do more than turn a profit. As a brand you are responsible for crafting a powerful social impact strategy, but how do you know where to start?
In times of immense need, it is especially important to authentically advocate as a brand. The rise of COVID-19 at the beginning of this year caused an economic downturn reminiscent of the recession in 2008 and served as a reminder that historical perspective can drive future actions.
Cone Communication’s first Cause Consumer Behavior Study, released in 2008, highlights that customers will set a high bar for businesses to maintain philanthropic efforts, if not take on more, during a poor economic climate. The study also shares that 85% of Americans have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about and 79% would be likely to switch from one brand to another, when price and quality are about equal, if the other brand is associated with a good cause. Doing good does more than just build your brand’s mission — it is relevant to your customers and will drive your bottom line.
A key piece to a social impact strategy is aligning your brand’s values with appropriate causes and nonprofits. With the potential to partner with over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, it can be difficult to dial-in on the correct one. In order to narrow that pool, brands can take a look at four aspects of their business to get a holistic view to build their social impact.
Connecting Through Giving
At ShoppingGives, we enable brands to make a difference while including customers and measuring the power of impact. We provide a native giving experience on-site that encourages and informs customers while also measuring bottom-line impact and handling all donation collection and disbursement. As a Certified B Corporation, we aim to make giving easier so brands can focus more on the good they’re doing and less about how to do good.
Our program has shown that customers care about giving; those who select their own cause spend more and those who are donors in general are the most valuable shoppers. It’s not enough to set and forget donations; brands need to be deliberate in their giving.
When we bring on new partners, we recommend taking a 360-degree approach that addresses team, customers, community, and product. Aligning your impact within these four segments is how your brand can take a genuine position on the causes that you stand for.
In the photo: Businesses must look to their team to help inform their decisions. Photo credit: Unsplash.
Your team is made up of your biggest brand advocates, so it’s important to take a stand with and for them in your corporate social responsibility strategy. They will drive your values and advocate for your mission. What matters to them? What will they confidently defend? How can you take your team’s spirit and translate that through your brand? Look to your team to help inform decisions. No brand is made of just one voice, and the same should be said about its impact. Our team prioritizes each other’s values and beliefs with surveys, roundtable discussions, and anonymous feedback. These can be a great place to start if your brand is looking to gain an understanding of internal beliefs.
A great example of a business bringing team values to life is The Sis Kiss. When beginning their giving strategy, every member of the team picked a nonprofit close to their heart to highlight on site and give back to. This sort of activation can boost morale and strengthen your employee relationships.
Another example of team engagement in giving is Kenneth Cole. Social good is central to Kenneth Cole’s existence and they have created a strong value system that their team rallies behind. Kenneth Cole offers opportunities to their stakeholders throughout the year in the form of fundraisers, days of service, and donation drives to participate in their impact mission. This drives engagement with the team and builds excitement around what matters most to them internally.
Of course, it is important to take your customers’ values into account when crafting an impact-driven brand message as well. With shoppers buying with their values now more than ever, taking a stance for a cause important to your customers will build their loyalty. You also must decide as a company which values you draw the line at, if any. Sometimes your company beliefs will cost you customers, and you should be prepared for those situations.
One example of this can be seen following the murder of George Floyd. Many brands had not taken a look at their internal values and assessed where they stood on race and injustice. Beyond that, businesses that had a strong sense of what they stood for, even if it wasn’t related to police brutality, were more prepared and prompt in coming forward with powerful messages of support and change that resonated with many customers and potentially lost them others. Shoppers have more access to information than ever, and they’ll know when a brand is making an authentic statement. Ben & Jerry’s has received praise for its statement against white supremacy. Brands that made a statement that didn’t match up to their actions or beliefs were called out by former employees and customers.
It’s not enough to make statements; customers expect action and authentic advocacy. While your brand may not be well-versed in issues that arise, you must learn and grow to move forward.
In the photo: Customers expect action and authentic advocacy from businesses. Photo credit: Unsplash.
Don’t be fooled by this aspect’s similarity to customers! Your community can be your customers, but it’s also your neighborhood, supporters, nonprofits, friends of the brand, or anything else that supports your existence. This component holds plenty of inspiration for your brand’s giving. Look to members of your community for causes to support. If you want to support animal rights, why not check which shelters or organizations are in your neighborhood? Maybe one of your collaborators has a nonprofit they’ve volunteered at for years. This aspect is especially important to keep in mind for businesses that are tied to their roots, like city institutions or generations-old businesses.
Nisolo shows support for its community in Peru by publishing their lowest wage and taking a transparent approach to sharing their ethical manufacturing. They worked with a third party to get an in-depth and honest report of their factory working conditions and set an example for other brands to do the same. Though this isn’t a charitable contribution, Nisolo is showing their brand beliefs and supporting their community.
The final way to examine your social impact is your product. Where do you source materials? Is the product low-waste? Many businesses will utilize their giving as a way to neutralize parts of their production—for example, planting trees to replace those used in production—and some donate gently used pieces that didn’t work for their customers. That being said, you can always donate new products too.
Toms famously began selling shoes with a buy one, give one promise that the shoes you bought would be matched with a pair donated. This created a new way to think about corporate giving and has been replicated by others. Allbirds takes impact into account by using sustainable materials in its product investing in offsets to fund projects that neutralize the company’s environmental footprint.
Finding balance among these components is how you can create a genuine impact mission. Not every brand will include every aspect, and perhaps a grouping of just two or three is the best option for some retailers. At the core, these guidelines serve as a place to start when brands craft their unique strategy.
Whatever approach your brand decides to take, it is most important to be honest. Consumers have the knowledge and tools to understand what is a true passion from a brand and what is “greenwashing” or pandering. By taking these four components into account, your business can build social impact as well as customer loyalty and trust.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.