Every brand is built on something, and in 2021, more companies than ever are focusing on corporate social responsibility (aka CSR). If you’re a business owner who has no idea what CSR is, you’re in the right place: because it’s crucial to your business, and we’re here to help you incorporate CSR into your business model.
Let’s start with some clear examples: Dove is more than a company that sells body wash — they embody body-positivity by celebrating all body types and spearheading campaigns like the Dove Self-Esteem Project. Ben & Jerry’s is up to more than just making ice cream — the company is also leading advocate for social change, equity and justice.
CSR is a great way for businesses to give back to society and stand for something larger than their product or service. But what’s in it for you, you ask? Well, for most business owners, a whole lot!
Having a social impact or CSR-focus helps businesses attract and retain employees and customers. Lots of consumers say they are “willing to pay more for products from a socially responsible brand,” so don’t miss the chance to make an impact and build your business at the same time!
Plus, it’s up to businesses to reflect consumer values — and in today’s climate, the values we place on social justice and human rights have never been more important.
As you shape and build your own brand, think about the underlying purpose behind your business. Besides providing a product or service, why does your brand exist? What do you care about, and how does that intersect with what your customers care about?
If you’re drawing a blank, don’t worry! We know that this can be a tricky question to answer, so here are a few tips on how to curate and hone your brand conviction:
Know who you’re talking to
To really hone in on your brand values, it’s important to get to know your audience. And not just their age or gender, but on a deeper level — like their behaviors and backgrounds. What do they care about?
- Personalities and Interests: Get to the core of your audience members. What types of opinions, attitudes, and lifestyles does your audience have? Pay attention to the types of conversations your audience members are having online. What hashtags are they using? Who do they follow on social media? Look for commonalities and patterns among your audience members to gauge what they really care about.
- Networks: Think about the types of groups that your audience members are a part of. If you’re targeting college students, odds are they’re involved in Greek Life, student government or another school club. If you want to reach moms, look to mommy bloggers, school systems, or Facebook groups they belong to. Networks have a ton of influence over our choices and decisions and can reveal a lot about us!
After observation and market research, you will be able to gauge the types of causes your audience truly cares about. But what’s better than researching your audience online? Talking to them!
You can get really fancy and create a survey or poll, but you can also just talk. Ask them what issues they care about; climate change, gender equality, racial disparities, LGBTQ+ allyship, immigration, or something else entirely. Pick their brains — we promise that they’ll appreciate it.
Pick the issue you want to focus on
If you’re going to add a social impact lens to your business, you’re either all in or all out. Make sure you choose a cause that you and your business will authentically support. How can you do this?
Once you’ve talked with your customers, vendors, supporters, and staff, narrow their feedback down to three issue areas that you heard over and over again. Out of those choices, which feels the most true to you and your brand? Pick a cause not only that matters to your audience, but one that matters to YOU!
It could be an issue area that ties into your business model: if you run a bakery, maybe you feel strongly about food insecurity; if you are a staffing firm, you can provide professional clothes for low-income individuals who need job interviews.
Construction and industrial companies can promote sustainability among employees and customers. We’ve worked with an architectural firm whose mission includes ensuring stable housing for members of their community. There are so. many. options.
Here is the key question to answer: how does what you do tie into what you care about?
Actively incorporate CSR into your business
You picked a cause…now what?
The next step is bringing it to life! Maybe it’s through committing to make regular donations to an impactful organization, donating a portion of your proceeds, or highlighting the cause in your next campaign — but whatever it may be, think about how to align your strategy with your cause.
If donating money or goods feels like too much at this stage in your business, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. CSR doesn’t just mean giving money — it means making an impact. Mentor young women who dream of becoming entrepreneurs. Give employees time off to volunteer.
These tips are just a starting point for how to incorporate CSR into your business — there’s no ceiling on what you can do to make a difference. All you need is a little bit of research, a plan, and a whole lotta passion to turn your business into a social-impact leader.
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