Identifying a company’s social responsibility can be a difficult endeavor. Of course, you want to work for a sustainable and profitable company that contributes positively to society and the surrounding environment. But, this can be difficult to find. To that end, we've collected our top five things to look for to help you to spot a socially responsible company.
1. Cause-Related Marketing
A good indicator of a socially responsible company is cause-related marketing. This technique is used by companies to raise awareness about a specific cause that they care about. Whether it’s a small business that provides free web conference software/phone conferencing or PayPal, they can work with a charity and associate the products of their business with the cause of the non-profit.
In some cases, companies engage in cause-related marketing by donating all or some of the profits of these products to the charity. Other forms of cause-related marketing that companies often use include becoming a non-profit sponsor, buying a product to give a product scheme, or working in unison to help increase exposure to the cause.
To identify if the company is socially responsible, you must understand why companies carry out cause-related marketing:
Cause-related marketing can benefit the company in many ways, but it can also lead to companies conducting inauthentic campaigns purely for PR. So, you must identify whether the company is transparent and whether the campaign is genuine.
How do you identify an authentic cause-related marketing campaign?
Every company has a mission, but not every company has a cause. A cause is larger than a brand and may require generations of campaigns and collaboration.
A company's cause should reflect the values of its brand. A great example was the Starbucks “What’s Your Name?” LGBT+ campaign, which highlighted the transition of a transgender individual and their experience testing out their new name on their coffee cup. This reflection of their values created a very evocative campaign that resonated with their audience.
An authentic campaign needs to motivate customers to participate. It should actually make you believe you can make a difference and provide you with a feeling of responsibility. A socially responsible company will also show appreciation to consumers who back their campaign.
As a job seeker wanting to identify socially responsible cause-related marketing, you need to ask yourself questions like:
Finally, cause-related marketing should be more than just a monetary donation. It should genuinely provide tangible value. Another great example was the Uber “Thank You For Not Riding” campaign that encouraged users not to ride with Uber during the pandemic.
Philanthropy is normally the first thing that comes to mind when people think about a company’s social responsibility. Similar to cause-related marketing, some companies donate to charities as it’s a great way to raise the profile of their brand and improve company reputation. Statistics show that 70% of millennials are more likely to purchase products from brands that support charitable causes. Supporting a charity is also a great way to elicit more audience engagement.
So, you need to ensure that the company is not simply participating in a “hot topic” cause for publicity. An example of this is a concept called “pinkwashing”, when companies take advantage of LGBT marketing potential, such as the Burger King Pride Whopper, without providing genuine, sufficient support to the community.
Corporate philanthropy doesn’t just have to mean donations. It represents the company’s commitment to causes and can come in various forms, including:
Ethical conduct is one of the most important attributes a company should have. Portraying this image of philanthropy and showing solidarity with various causes is all well and good, but carrying out ethical practices is what truly distinguishes a socially responsible company.
Studies have proven that not only are ethical principles the right thing to do morally but that companies committed to ethical conduct outperform businesses that don’t prioritize it.
Ethics sometimes change from person to person and business to business. This is why it is important to define an ethical organization. Ethical companies aim to provide a sustainable business that contributes positively to society without harming people or the surrounding environment.
A company’s ethical duties should be self-regulated – they should want to carry them out, rather than just being required to. Good ethical conduct means that fairer treatment is not only given to their direct employees and stakeholders but that the company should also provide this treatment to every employee on the supply chain. This can include farmers, factory workers, delivery drivers, etc.
When trying to identify an ethically responsible company, look for:
4. Community Involvement
Companies shouldn't limit support to well known, national non-profit organizations. They should also give back on a local and community level. Even if you’re seeking employment at a smaller business and you’re asking yourself “should small businesses work with charities?” the answer is still yes.
Aside from supporting local charities and businesses, there are a variety of creative things a socially responsible business can do to help their community. Here are a few you can look out for:
Even bigger companies that are spread among many locations should provide for the community. For example, Google has been supporting a variety of lower-income communities around the world by providing them with educational materials for virtual learning.
5. Company Culture
A company needs to have ethical practices when they are dealing with external factors such as products and media perception. But it is also important to focus on internal practices. Unethical company culture is one where there is a contradiction between words and actions within the business.
A socially responsible company should respect their employees as much as they respect their customers. This means giving them their rights, vacation, benefits, and all necessary accommodations (and when they’re working from home, the best online meeting software and home office equipment the company can provide).
Statistics show that:
Here are a few characteristics of a good company culture that is socially responsible:
Corporate social responsibility is not a PR stunt; it is consciously fostered within a company and encompasses a variety of different aspects all as vital as each other. When keeping these values at the center of your job search, it's important to ensure that the company’s cause-related marketing campaigns actually align with their company values and doesn’t just hop on a topical bandwagon. Remember: identifying social responsibility is more than just reading an italicized motto underneath a company logo on LinkedIn.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and virtual phone systems. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as VoilaNorbert and Cincopa.
Mikaela Kiner is an executive coach, entrepreneur, and HR consultant who recently authored the book Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace, in which she interviewed thirteen successful, mission-driven women to learn about personal and professional obstacles they’d faced and how they stayed resilient.
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