The consumer landscape is a dynamic environment. Consumer behavior is constantly changing, and the values customers hold are continually evolving. Because of this, brands always need to keep one ear permanently to the ground to understand how habits are changing.
One of the biggest trends in recent years is the growing focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR). From publishing environmental policies to implementing women’s empowerment initiatives, companies are spending more time and energy than ever on positioning themselves as ethical and sustainable.
This article explores why CSR is essential in 2019, and why it looks to be a critical part of PR in the future.
What’s spurred CSR?
The modern world is changing fast. The digital age is democratizing information, and consumers are getting woke. In recent years we’ve seen how movements on social media can influence billion-dollar industries like Hollywood (#metoo) and even topple governments (The Arab Spring).
Human rights, natural environment, and social justice are prominent social issues, and these are transforming the way people think and shop. A staggering 94% of Gen-Z now think companies should address pressing social and environmental issues, and 55% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that contribute to positive change.
This means it’s crucial for companies to work towards or, at the very least, appear to be working towards more socially responsible business models, both to project a more attractive image to potential customers and protect their bottom lines.
Approaches to CSR
There are a number of routes to CSR. A popular approach is philanthropy, which involves donating money or aid to local or international charities. Many companies like to employ this approach as it’s fast. However, it doesn’t offer businesses a great deal in return.
A more productive way of investing money is community-based developments. This method actually benefits the company and works by helping local communities to upskill, allowing the company to improve its public image and develop the skills of prospective employees.
Other companies are incorporating CSR directly into their corporate strategy. This is a popular choice with some of the world’s biggest brands. Coca-Cola has invested in alternative fuels to reduce its carbon emissions by 25% by 2020, and Google has improved power overheads at its data centers to improve efficiency and curb energy use.
Benefits of CSR
Instilling trust in potential customers is perhaps the biggest benefit of CSR. 63% of the public would give socially responsible businesses the benefit of the doubt during a crisis. And having customers on your side is important. Research conducted at Boston University suggests that companies with good CSR can effect a “reservoir of goodwill” that incentivizes customers to minimize any negative information they may come across on social or in the media, creating a sort of reputational insurance policy that protects the company in the event of anything going wrong.
There are now more ways than ever for consumers to find out information about your company. Whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter, consumers are able to see how you communicate with customers, get a sense of what your company does and evaluate whether they want to spend their money with you.
Seeing that your brand works to protect the environment or supports a charity close to their hearts can be the difference between making a conversion or ceding a sale to your competition.
76% of consumers say they wouldn’t do business with a company that holds views or supports issues that are in conflict with their own. This means you can encourage a strong sense of customer loyalty by working with charities or groups you know your customers support. Knowing a part of your profits goes towards a cause they support can encourage customers to align themselves with your business, motivating greater spending and boosting return business.
Just as CSR can nurture loyalty from clients, it too can affect how your employees relate to your business. Putting a strong CSR policy in place can cultivate a more positive culture at work that unites teams, improves retention rates and attracts top talent to your company.
Why is CSR essential in 2020?
The consumer landscape is changing fast. To keep up, businesses need to prepare for future consumer trends earlier than ever. In the past few years, the shift towards social responsibility hasn’t gone unnoticed, and a growing number of businesses are trying to capitalize on this by introducing CSR initiatives and focusing more attention on sustainability-related issues.
To make sure your clients are able to effectively streamline the rising number of touchpoints in modern customer journeys, businesses need to be able to promote robust CSR strategies that attract customers, inspire trust and produce meaningful positive change.