Man holding a can of soup at a food drive

Let’s Do More Good.
Responsibility Is Opportunity.

The world has changed and consumer’s attitudes and buying behaviors have changed right along with it. Consumers now expect brands to be part of the solution to today’s social and environmental issues, and it shows in their brand loyalty.

At its core, giving back goes beyond marketing, brand loyalty, and increased sales; it is also part of social and moral responsibility. Brands should give back, not because they want to boost sales or their image, but because we ALL have a responsibility to improve the lives of those in need. It’s also our responsibility to leave a thriving planet for future generations. Embracing giving back as a corporate credo can be a positive opportunity for everyone.

Stand For Something

Unfortunately, we live in a world where social and environmental needs are plentiful; racism, inequality, deforestation, plastic pollution, poverty, homelessness, and hunger are just a few. There is no shortage of causes to support.

Successful brands such as Patagonia, Starbucks and Nike, have all recognized the need and made taking a strong stance an integral part of their company DNA. They’ve determined what causes are important to them and fully support said causes. It’s not just part of their corporate culture, it’s an inherent part of their corporate policy.

By committing to causes that resonate with the public, employees and consumers, brands solidify the fact that they stand for something. Vicariously, consumers and employees can be proud that they are contributing to something positive.

Balancing The Books

When corporate social-responsibility became mainstream practice, the concept of Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL) was popularized, i.e. a way of measuring how an organization has performed in three main areas: social, environmental and financial. They’re also referred to as the 3 P’s of sustainability— People, Planet, and Profit.

Sustainable and eco-friendly development, unfortunately, was commonly left to non-profit organizations to handle. The business world has been functioning in an unbalanced manner; smaller organizations, with less staff and capital, who are supported by volunteers, struggle to clean up the messes created by larger corporations.

Increased social media activity and 24-hour news cycles have brought a positive level of transparency to the situation, with specific repeat offenders being held publicly accountable, yet there is still much to be done.

Although nothing will ever be perfect, taking a more balanced view of progress with TBL, gives “Planet” and “People” a seat at the table alongside “Profit”.

In general, many brands have now found a way to initiate the giving back process on a wider scale. Brands are getting personally involved with charitable organizations and donating time, talent and treasure on a regular basis. This involvement alone begins to address the prevalent imbalances.

The word ‘responsibility’ in the term Corporate Social Responsibility remains just that— a responsibility; a duty that companies fulfill because it is necessary…not because they genuinely care about people or the planet. Most of the time, consumers aren’t even aware that the companies they purchase from participate in philanthropy. And, if they are aware, it doesn’t create that much of an impact.

Get Involved

TOMS set a very good example by reinventing the way corporations approached participation in community development. When they launched the “One for One” campaign for social good, they integrated philanthropy into their business model - it wasn’t a “bolt-on” campaign, it was an inherent part of the brands’ very existence.

What was genius about TOMS approach was that it was immediately relatable - buy a pair of shoes and someone less fortunate also gets a pair of shoes. A simple, digestible and direct way to do good, with very little that had to be done by consumers to feel good about their purchase.

By taking a hands-on direct approach to giving back, brands have the opportunity to direct and customize their approach. They can decide how best to contribute time, talent and treasure, and adapt to maximize the benefit for all involved.

2K Interactive, makers of the NBA2K game created 2K Foundations, to invest directly into underserved neighborhoods around the country. The program refurbishes basketball courts, and provides access to education and opportunities through S.T.E.A.M. related activities. Working directly with community activists and influencers, they are able to tailor their approach in each situation to maximize the impact for the community.

Getting directly involved with a cause is more than simply writing a check. Some of the benefits are corporate pride- through employee involvement, social content for consumer engagement and education, and inspiration for others to find ways to become directly involved.

Giving Back Matters

Multiple studies have shown Millennials, and the Gen Z age group following them, support brands that have community development at their core. Thanks to social media, they are acutely aware of the unequal distribution of resources and the impact of those actions.

In a study conducted for Fortune 500, Morning Consult found that millennials formed over 60% of a group of 2000 individuals who were more likely to work for a company that was involved in charitable activities than those who were not. This shows that the generations who are poised to lead the future, care more about social and environmental causes than the ones who came before them.

When Millennials and Generation Z choose to purchase from socially conscious brands, they’re doing good- by extension. Not only are they purchasing, they’re also donating; that’s bound to leave an impression. They don’t need brands to look compassionate, they need them to be compassionate. Therefore, brands must integrate philanthropy into the core of the business model and not just the marketing model.

Nike is an example of a brand with an expansive range of charitable campaigns – most of which aim to help children become more physically active. With their ‘Made to Play’ campaign, they ensure that children receive coaching, education, and financial support. As a globally recognized brand, Nike is paving the way for under-privileged kids to discover their true potential. Employees volunteering as coaches promotes a cohesive internal culture.

When the people who work for brands realize that they are helping create change, it brings pride, encourages them to participate and builds loyalty.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In the giving back chain, people who need help are helped, conscious consumers feel good about their purchases and the world is a bit better.

But what’s in it for the brands?

Studies have shown that consumer loyalty is boosted significantly when they find brands whose values match their own; when people tell their friends, family, and colleagues about this amazing brand that does so much philanthropic work, authentic community brand messaging spreads and brand affinity grows.

One major caveat is that it’s imperative that a brand be genuine about the causes it claims to care about. With the power of the internet and social media, customers easily see through a half-hearted, jump-on-the-bandwagon approach to giving back, and that usually backfires.

Brands are better served by taking the time to align with the causes they believe in and to stick with them. Maintain brand humility; focus attention on the causes that are supported- rather than being self-congratulatory.

Patagonia has made environmental and social causes a central tenet of the brand. Their dedication to the ‘1% percent for the planet’ campaign was set in motion in 2002 and is still going strong. Many well-known brands have pledged their support to the movement, including: Spindrift, Honest Tea and plenty of others. Patagonia has been unwavering with its environmental support, and in turn, their loyal base has been unwavering in their support of the brand.

Content Gives Context

When brands actively support charities and/or create their own campaigns, it is inevitable that human-interest stories will be a result – the communities that are touched, the employees that were involved, the impact that was made. These stories provide excellent content and context for the brand to socialize. They are interesting, inspiring and illuminate the ways that others can get involved. Thus, resulting in building loyalty amongst existing brand fans, while also attracting new interest from a wider audience.

Consumers gravitate towards brands that are vocal, authentic and committed to their philanthropic activities— especially if it’s related to a cause that they have a personal connection to. Common beliefs and shared values create strong, long lasting bonds that are not easily broken.

So, brands...for everyone’s sake (including yours) let’s do more good together

…it’s our collective responsibility.