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Do your corporate social responsibility plans meet customer expectations?

Shared values are increasingly important to customers - but the number of consumers who believe business is having a positive impact on society is decreasing.

21st Feb 2020
Contributor MyCustomer
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Corporate responsibility
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The importance of having a considered corporate social responsibility programme should not be underestimated. 

Identity-led customer loyalty is on the rise, with shared values becoming increasingly significant in generating feelings of affinity and trust with particular brands, according to new research.

A survey undertaken by Censuswide among 2,004 US and UK consumers on behalf of customer loyalty and engagement platform provider LoyaltyLion revealed that just over two-thirds attributed their brand loyalty to having shared values with the brands in question.

The study entitled ‘Loyalty – Up close and personal’ also indicated that a huge 89% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause if the price and quality of products or services were similar on balance.

Moreover, when consumers were asked about their motivation to join a loyalty programme if offered rewards that were aligned with causes they cared about, some 62% said ‘yes’. But the number jumped to 73% among Millennials and 71% among 16-24 year olds, indicating that a brand’s positioning on social causes is of particular significance for younger consumers.

The study indicated that a huge 89% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause if the price and quality of products or services were similar on balance.

Feelings of trust are equally important though. Indeed, just over three-quarters of those questioned indicated it was vital if they were stay loyal to a given brand and recommend it to a friend.

Such findings also reflect the conclusions of other recent studies, including those referred to in a blog by Gethin Nadin, director of employee wellbeing at employee benefits, rewards and recognition software provider Benefex. 

Nadin cited a Nielson report that indicated 73% of global consumers were willing to spend more money on a product if it came from a brand associated with sustainable activities. He also quoted a Horizon Media study, which showed that four out of five young people now expected companies to publicly commit to being good corporate citizens.

On the downside, however, research indicates that the number of consumers who believe business is having a positive impact on society is decreasing, with recent a recent Deloitte study indicating that the number has plummeted to 55% from 76% the previous year. 

“Consumers and employees alike are looking for kinder, greener and more self-aware organisations to support, and those businesses who don’t keep up will inevitably lose out on talent and profits,” warns Nadin.

As a result, he concludes: “2020 is the year employers from every industry will start to embed social responsibility into their brand as organisations find it increasingly difficult to survive in a world where people want to make a difference.”

Three organisations leading the way

In a recent article for HRZone, editor Becky Norman highlights three big brands that deserve special mention for putting corporate social responsibility at the heart of their customer strategy:  

Lego

Back in 2014, GreenPeace posted a video that went viral putting pressure on LEGO to not renew a multimillion pound deal with Shell. Since then, the Danish toymaker has transformed itself and now places huge focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

You may rightly question the company's recognition in the CSR space given its mass production of plastic building blocks for children’s play. LEGO is well aware of this unsustainable predicament, however, and in 2018 launched its first range of blocks made from plant-based sources.

This is the first of many steps it’s taking to achieve its goal of making all Lego bricks sustainable by 2030. It is also working towards sending zero waste to landfill by 2025 (already 93% of any waste is recycled or reused). With investments made in offshore wind farms, all energy outputs are balanced by renewable energy.

The organisation is also focused on having a responsible supply chain and protecting human rights. In addition, embodying its key message of learning through play, LEGO has set up various initiatives to empower and educate children across the world.

Norvo Nordisk

Big pharma has a bad reputation for immoral practices such as unaffordable pricing, dubious marketing campaigns and not investing in cures if there’s no money in it. Corporate Watch refers to the ongoing actions of pharma bohemaths as ‘corporate inhumanity’.

Standing out from the pharma crowd, however, is Danish company Norvo Nordisk. As the world’s largest supplier of diabetes treatment and with tens of millions of people unable to afford the insulin required to treat the disease, it strives to improve affordability and accessibility of these life-saving insulin pens across the globe. It focuses its efforts heavily on those who are most vulnerable within developing countries.

Norvo Nordisk is also striving to have zero environmental impact. This year it is set to be using 100% renewable energy across all of its production sites, and by 2030 it is aiming for zero CO2 emissions from all operations and transport. Efforts are also underway to make products more eco-friendly so that they don’t end up in landfill.

Microsoft

Technology is another industry known for its morally dubious ways – with various data breach scandals, sexual harassment issues and the glacially slow progress in diversity and inclusion all making recent headlines.

Being known for its toxic culture, particularly among the executive team, you may have grouped Microsoft among these infamous tech giants. It seems that this reputation was turned around when CEO Satya Nadella took over in 2014. While the likes of Google and Facebook are being criticised for their lack of transparency, Microsoft is spearheading ethical behaviour in tech. Last year it introduced new steps to better categorise the data it collects and bolster the documentation on why it collects specific data to increase transparency.

Despite its former hostile reputation, the company has been focused on ‘giving back’ since 1983, when teams of employees would compete to raise the most funds and win the chance to dunk co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates in the campus lake. 

Today, in an effort to help combat the huge tech skills gap and lack of diversity in the industry, Microsoft funds programmes that provide computer science training across 41 countries for millions of young people – over 50% of participants are females and 80% are from underserved communities. This is part of a wider initiative ‘Microsoft Philanthropies’, which is also committed to providing tech to nonprofits, community engagement and employee volunteering.

Going one step beyond many in the sustainability arena, the carbon neutral company is aiming to have removed all the carbon it has directly emitted since it was founded in 1975.

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By LinkedIn Group Member
25th Feb 2020 11:44

Comment originally posted in the MyCustomer LinkedIn group by member Patrick Schmidt:

The general trend towards corporate social responsibility is a good sign that society takes the challenges we face seriously, but I believe that mainly consumers in economically prosperous countries, who have the financial means, can opt to buy products from companies with CSR programs. The gap between countries, e.g. Northern and Southern Europe, is still wide. However, given the general increasing public awareness to care for our environment gives me hopes that eventually sustainability and CSR are part of all businesses!

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