How Corporate Social Responsibility Connects Us to Consumers
"Long gone are the days of disengaged consumers, whose allegiance is garnered merely through coupons and loyalty programs. Today's customers are increasingly sophisticated and selective. They like to keep their finger on the pulse of the companies with which they have chosen, or are thinking of choosing, to do business. Does the business align with their values? Is it engaged with the community, and what is it doing for the greater good?
Whether consumers like the answers they find commonly drives their purchasing behavior and loyalty. In fact, consumers may refuse to do business with a company if they see a lack of alignment in values. Consider what the following research reveals:
- 87 percent of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about. (1)
- 92 percent of consumers say they have a more positive image of a company when the company supports a social or environmental issue. (2)
- 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. (3)
This heightened awareness allows organizations to connect with consumers on a deeper level than ever before. Known as corporate social responsibility (CSR), this commitment to the community provides a platform for which employees can engage with their employer's culture and values and spread that message forward.
While CSR provides business and its employees an opportunity to bond with their community and give back, it can also have a significant impact on a brand's reputation and bottom line. According to Reputation Institute, the gold standard in corporate reputation measurement, companies considered fair, ethical and that have a positive influence on society help contribute to nearly 52 percent of a business' reputation. (5) And since 68 percent of investment professionals would opt to invest in a company perceived as socially responsible over one that is not, doing good can positively affect a business' bottom line. (2)
However, CSR also creates demand that organizations think critically not only about what they support, but also how they go about it. Are they doing so in ways that are genuine, meaningful and relevant to the business, and sustainable?
Follow your passion
Giving back does not need to be complicated. With a bit of introspection, you can find values and interests inherently present in your business that correlate with an authentic cause. Here are a few options to think about:
- If sports are an interest, consider coaching or mentoring up-and-coming athletes.
- If you have an affinity for the elderly, volunteering at a senior center can be a great option.
- If you are passionate about the environment, contemplate joining or organizing a community cleanup effort.
- There are also plenty of charities and causes that can use financial support.
As you can see, there are many options for giving back. What you should keep the focus on, however, is ensuring that your passion reflects the business. For example, Aflac is a pioneer in cancer insurance, providing products since the 1950s. In line with that is our 23-year, $123 million commitment to the treatment and research of childhood cancer. Not only does this cause align with our business, but it is sustained, which research shows is a significant differentiator when it comes to consumers' and investors' spending decisions. One-offs all too often signify opportunism, while sustained programs illustrate an authentic commitment.
A marathon, not a sprint
When it comes to CSR, there should never be a "quick-win" strategy for your business. Building a thoughtful program requires time and effort to create an authentic connection to the cause you are supporting. Giving back to the community must always be an honest effort to solve a societal challenge. But when your company's social responsibility efforts are authentic, your business and employees will experience worthwhile results, both professionally and personally.
About the Author
Catherine Hernandez-Blades is senior vice president, chief brand and communications officer at Aflac. Her responsibilities include Advertising, Brand Strategy, Social Media and Corporate Communications, including Aflac's award-winning corporate social responsibility program.
1 Cone Communications. "2017 Cone Communications CSR Study." Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.conecomm.com/research-blog/2017-csr-study#download-the-research.
2 The 2017 Aflac Corporate Social Responsibility Report. Accessed March 16, 2018. https://www.aflac.com/about-aflac/corporate-citizenship.
3 Nielsen Research. "The Sustainability Imperative." Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2015/the-sustainability-imperative.html.
4 Nielsen Research. "Doing well by doing good." Accessed March 21, 2018. https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/jp/docs/report/2014/Nielsen%20Global%20Corporate%20Social%20Responsibility%20Report%20-%20June%202014.pdf.
5 Reputation Institute. "Most Reputable Companies in the United States in 2018." Accessed April 23, 2018. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2963875/_PDF/PressReleases/2018-US-RepTrak-PressRelease-updated.pdf?t=1524497004680. "