Corporate social responsibility can win media attention and public respect. Improving the corporate reputation is also path to improving sales. Surveys show that consumers favor corporations with strong records of social responsibility. Millennials in particular prefer companies with reputations for giving back to their communities.
An Aflac survey shows that consumers are more likely to purchase from corporations with ethical reputations. The survey reports that:
- 92% of millennials are more likely to purchase from an ethical company.
- 69% of consumers are likely to purchase stock in a company well-known for its ethical standards.
- 81% of consumers are more likely to purchase from corporations with active year-round philanthropic efforts, as opposed to only in times of need.
- Millennials are likely to invest in a company with a reputation for corporate social responsibility, compared with less than half of adults over 34.
Ethical Corporations and Charities
A poll by Good.Must.Grow, a marketing firm specializing social responsibility, indicates that 30% of consumers planned to purchase more goods and services from socially responsible companies. In addition, 29% said they avoid buying products from a company specifically because it wasn’t socially responsible.
Many consumers prefer to patronize socially responsible corporations rather than donate to charities, often because it’s easier. Only 18% planned to increase charitable giving.
“The line between charity and commerce is blurring for many consumers, thanks to increasing opportunities for socially responsible spending,” said Heath Shackleford, founder of Good.Must.Grow. “As a result, forward-thinking causes should be evaluating whether they can diversify their organizations so they aren’t solely dependent upon grants and donations.”
Steps to Corporate Social Responsibility
Public relations professionals are best able to promote corporate responsibility programs. The following are recommendations on how companies can implement those programs.
Consider employees’ views. Supporting charities or causes that employees already care about helps sustain interest. Larger companies can examine employee demographics. After learning that most of its employees are millennials, TCC initiated a buying local program, an issue that millennials often support, according to Forbes.
Measure the impact. Tabulate donations from the company and its employees, including volunteer work, and their impact. For instance, when PNC tracked its Grow Up Great initiative it found that 42,000 PNC employees spent 485,000 hours reading at early childhood education centers. They reached more than 2.3 million children, who made measurable gains in reading comprehension, writes Paul Polizzotto, founder and president of CBS/EcoMedia, for Ad Age.
Share your concern. Sharing news about a problem on social media and your company blog can prompt donations. “That’s awareness to action, in real time — and at no cost to you,” Polizzotto says.
Publicize your work. Aggressively publicize the company’s cause marketing. However, emphasize the cause, the charity and the measurable impact to avoid being perceived as self-promotional.
Form a committee. An official committee can lead volunteer events, recommend new activities and keep those efforts alive. Rotating people in and out of the group annually will assure new ideas and prevent people from becoming burnt out.
Make it fun. Employees should perceive volunteering in philanthropic activities as a chance to socialize with their colleagues outside normal work routines. “In addition, this mindset will help employees find value in their company that simply cannot be achieved by an orientation session, office party or quarterly business review,” says Jeremy Roche, president of FinancialForce.com, in Entrepreneur. Volunteer time off (VTO) policies encourage employees to volunteer and build loyalty to your company.
Bottom Line: Corporate social responsibility can help boost sales as well as improve a company’s reputation. Surveys show that consumers prefer to purchase goods and services from companies with ethical reputations. These steps can help organizations develop strong reputations as socially responsible corporations.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.