Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR is a corporation’s initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing.

CSR is the continuing commitment by businesses to behave ethically and contribute to the economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as that of the local community and society at large.

It’s not just celebrities that are waking up to the importance of looking after the world we live in. According to Credit Suisse, millennials (famous or otherwise) are the most sustainability-conscious generation and are willing to pay “more for products and services seen as sustainable or coming from socially and environmentally responsible companies”.

With such a growing interest surrounding brands that take their corporate social responsibility very seriously, it’s time to take a closer look at how they’re promoting these brand values in their marketing messages. From eye-catching website popups to summits to social media campaigns, here’s how ten retailers are using their marketing for the greater good.

1. BREWED RESPONSIBLY: STARBUCKS COFFEE

Since Starbucks Coffee started in 1971, the company has focused on acting responsibly and ethically. One of Starbucks’ main focuses is the sustainable production of green coffee. With this in mind, it created C.A.F.E. Practices, a set of guidelines to achieve product quality, economic accountability, social responsibility and environmental leadership. The company supports products such as Ethos Water, which brings clean water to the more than 1 billion people who do not have access. To date, Ethos Water has committed to grants totaling more than $6.2 million.

2. A SHOE FOR ME IS A SHOE FOR YOU: TOMS SHOES

Blake Mycoskie started Toms Shoes on the premise that for every pair of shoes sold, one pair would be donated to a child in need. This innovative idea resulted from a trip to Argentina where Mycoskie saw an overwhelming number of children without shoes. Toms Shoes recognized that consumers want to feel good about what they buy, and thus directly tied the purchase with the donation. In just four years, Toms Shoes has donated more than 400,000 shoes, evidence that consumers have clearly embraced the cause.

3. PURE LIFE: PURA VIDA BRACELETS

Another brand using email marketing as a way to spread awareness about a good cause is Pura Vida; Spanish for “pure life”. The brand has a fascinating story which you can read about in detail here, but to summarise it all started when two Californian graduates befriended two local jewellery makers on a trip to Costa Rica. The jewellery makers were struggling to make ends meet, so, to try and help out, the two grads requested 400 bracelets to take home with them, so that they could try and sell them from local shops in San Diego. Lo and behold, the bracelets sold out in weeks and a retail business was born. Today, every Pura Vida Bracelet is carefully handcrafted by artisans in Costa Rica, ensuring the two locals and hundreds of their friends now hold full-time jobs.

4. ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM: PATAGONIA

Founded way back in the 70s, outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has always been ahead of the curve with its environmental activism. The brand’s ecommerce site has a whole section dedicated to “environmental and social responsibility”, delving into its ethos, activism and impact with impressive finesse. But Patagonia doesn’t just talk to its visitors about what it, as a brand, is doing for the environment, it also takes to social media to retweet news and feature articles relating to issues (e.g. global warming) as a whole. Two years ago, Patagonia made industry headlines when it announced it was donating 100 per cent of its Black Friday 2016 sales to organisations that benefit the environment. This enabled the sustainable brand to get in front of more readers (and potential customers) and raise awareness for issues such as climate change.

5. MORE THAN MEETS THE SMELL: LUSH 

Most people associate Lush with sweet, flowery smells and technicolour bath bombs, but there’s a lot more to this cosmetics brand than looking and smelling great. 100% vegetarian, the retailer is also famous for fighting animal testing, using eco-friendly packaging and just generally doing whatever it can to look after Mother Nature. So, how does it spread the word about its hardcore values and overall purpose? One way is through Lush Player: a forum of TV clips and podcasts where philanthropic figures discuss a wide range of topics—from Brexit to reverential ecology.

6. THE SWEET DELIGHT OF GIVING BACK: BEN & JERRY’S

Ben & Jerry ‘s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have infused the company with the notions of giving back in every way possible, as well as “linked prosperity” between the company, its employees and the community. They started the Ben & Jerry ‘s Foundation, were founding members of the Business for Social Responsibility organization and set an extraordinary rate of giving to charitable organizations in the corporate world, donating a full 7.5% of pretax profits. In their own words, they “strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.” Unilever bought Ben & Jerry ‘s in 2000 and continues to support the foundation; it donated $2 million in 2009.

7. A WHOLE LOT OF GOOD: WHOLE FOODS

Whole Foods supports sustainable agriculture, promotes the reduction of waste and consumption of nonrenewable resources and encourages environmentally sound cleaning and store-maintenance programs. The company created the Local Producer Loan program, which provides up to $10 million in low-interest loans to small local producers to help grow their businesses. Whole Foods has also created Whole Planet Foundation, which fights poverty through microlending in rural communities around the world. The foundation has raised $1.5 million to help 40,000 women lift themselves out of poverty by empowering microentrepreneurs.

8. BEAUTY COMES FROM WITHIN: THE BODY SHOP

The Body Shop is regarded as a pioneer of modern corporate social responsibility as one of the first companies to publish a full report on its efforts and initiatives. Founder Anita Roddick led her company to stand up for its beliefs and champion causes such as self-esteem, environmental protection, animal rights, community trade and human rights. From sponsoring posters in 1985 for Greenpeace to presenting a petition against animal testing to the European Union with 4,000,000 signatures, The Body Shop has contributed significantly to the causes it supports and exemplifies how other companies can do the same.

9. RUN FOR THE OCEANS: ADIDAS

One of the biggest names in sportswear fights to preserve marine life through Run for the Oceans. Between June 8th and July 8th cities across the world host running events to turn the public’s attention towards the devastating effect of plastic pollution on marine life. Adidas will contribute $1 million to the Parley Ocean Plastic Program and, on top of that, runners raise money through their participation.

10. VOLUNTEARS: WALT DISNEY

Disney, the number one company in the entertainment industry, has been ranked one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” by Fortune for two years in a row. The company’s social mission is to strengthen communities “by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most” and gave more than $400 million to nonprofit organizations in 2016. The company’s “VoluntEARS” program encourages employees to donate time, which has totaled to 2.9 million hours of service since 2012 with a goal of reaching five million hours of employee community service by 2020.

Not every brand will have the time, resources or room to focus all of its efforts into corporate social responsibility, but—if nothing else—we hope this post offers valuable insight into how all marketers can go about communicating their brand’s core values in an interesting, inspirational and innovative way. 

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