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Business Strategy

The Hidden Value of a Corporate Responsibility Policy

Hannah Johnson

Here’s an experiment: Pick any large brand and search for them on Google along with the word “ethics.” Find anything interesting? 

Chances are you’ve found yourself in the middle of an extensive internet conversation about the relative rightness or wrongness of that brand’s business practices.

It’s no secret that consumers now have the power to access vast amounts of information about the companies they engage with. What might be more surprising is that consumers are using this power to determine whether brands share their values; 47% of consumers have stopped doing business with a brand due to disappointment in their stance on social issues, according to a 2018 Accenture study.

Call it conscious consumerism, dollar voting, or impact investing — the reality is that inquiring into a company’s social responsibility (or lack thereof) is now an important part of the buying process. 

This isn’t limited to B2C brands either — take this illustration from Harvard Business Review, in which “purpose” elements like vision, hope, and social responsibility are featured at the top of a pyramid demonstrating what B2B buyers really care about. 

Who decides how ethical you are?

People are researching whether your brand is demonstrating values that jibe with their own — but where are they looking for that information? 

People will inevitably turn to search engines, the news, and social media for answers, but there is a way to get ahead of the curve: Add corporate social responsibility (CSR) to your marketing messaging.

Many companies already have corporate responsibility policies on their websites, where consumers can view official statements and measurable actions the company has taken on topics like pollution, fair trade, animal welfare, and waste reduction. However, far from being purely fodder for “about us” pages, CSR policies are deep wells to draw from for marketing purposes. 

Your social responsibility is a value proposition; start treating it like one. 

The benefits of adding corporate responsibility to your messaging

While CSR used to be seen as an added bonus, some experts believe that it’s now an integral part of marketing. In an age when 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, it makes sense to utilize a CSR policy in your marketing campaigns.

When a consumer considers purchasing your product or service, they might have questions about your CSR. If you make those answers readily available — on top-level website pages, on social media, through consumable mediums like video and interactive — it will ease their concerns and build trust. 

Adhering to a corporate responsibility policy isn’t just good for acquiring consumers, either. It can also have a positive impact on employee engagement, helping attract prospective hires and improving retention of current employees.

What are the components of a successful corporate responsibility policy?

Don’t have a written CSR policy? 

Every company’s belief system is different, so there’s no official template for creating a corporate responsibility policy. However, you might consider the following questions as a starting point:

  • What does our company stand for? Aside from profitability, what do we hope to achieve?
  • In what areas are we going above and beyond government regulations and/or industry standards?
  • What do our customers value? How can we demonstrate that we share those values?
  • How will the policy be implemented and monitored? What metrics can we use to track our progress?

Actions speak louder than words

A CSR policy won’t help you with consumer trust unless your actions line up with your written policy, and the consequences of CSR scandals can be catastrophic. 

Consider the Volkswagen scandal that broke in 2015, in which the company admitted to deliberately cheating on diesel emissions tests, soon after announcing their high performance on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI).

Volkswagen had to pay $14.7 billion in settlement compensation, plus additional fines to the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, and Department of Justice. The scandal shattered consumer trust for the company, and raised questions about the reliability of CSR statements as a whole.

The moral of the story is that CSR requires follow through. Don’t write a CSR policy just for the sake of it. Consumers are on high alert for unethical practices, so it’s vital to maintain transparency and thoroughly demonstrate commitment to your company’s values.

If you compose a CSR statement you believe in, incorporate it into your marketing strategy, and put in the work to live up to it, you’ll reap the benefits — and feel even better about the work you do.

Ready to add CSR to your marketing messaging? We can help with that. 

Learn more about the role philanthropic efforts and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives can play in your employer branding. Download the TINYpulse x Salted Stone Culture Code Workbook

TINYPulse Workbook

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