“Research indicates that more consumers are basing their buying decisions on corporate social responsibility. An estimated 90% of shoppers worldwide are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality,” – Forbes.com
Consumer trends and consumer behaviour have undergone significant changes in recent times in tune with evolving business paradigms and the ongoing processes that underpin economic globalization. We note that exponential increases in terms of brand offerings and the humungous diversity in product lines have enabled customers to be exercise discretion in their choice of brands. A recent consumer trend has emerged wherein, socially responsible companies find themselves profitably positioned because modern consumers prefer to transact frequently with these entities. We intend to examine some of the reasons that underlie such behaviour in the following paragraphs.
Businesses can adopt a CSR stance that hinges on active giving to philanthropic causes; these enterprises can be called socially responsible companies. These businesses are animated by the fact that commerce owes its existence and sustenance to human society. Hence, commercial organizations should operate as socially responsible companies that contribute to the betterment of society and its constituents. For instance, a sporting goods manufacturer can elect to donate a certain percentage of its quarterly revenues to a charity of its choice. This stance helps the said business to contribute in a meaningful manner to human causes. In addition, the stance helps to burnish its commercial reputation, fulfil CSR mandates, win the approval of various stakeholders, and draw customer appreciation in ample measure. In light of the above, we may state that brands and businesses must pursue similar initiatives in a bid to reinforce the concept of socially responsible companies and to gain more customers.
The preservation of the natural environment has emerged as a critical battleground in modern sensibilities. Brands and businesses are alert to this debate and hence, many commercial organizations are working to preserve the natural environment. For instance, paper is a widely consumed product in modern civilization and therefore, paper manufacturers can emerge as socially responsible companies by planting acres of land with saplings and young trees. This action, when replicated in multiple regions, can create the effect of rejuvenating natural processes and replenishing diminished natural resources. We must note that these actions essentially acknowledge the fact that paper manufacturers deplete forests for wood, their primary raw material. Re-planting barren landscapes with fresh plants can help to offset the damage caused by commercial operations. These achievements spotlight the ethos of socially responsible companies that seek to raise their profile in the eyes of their customers.
Customer education is an important plank that can be leveraged by socially responsible companies. For instance, a pharmaceutical manufacturer can elect to educate its consumers on the various manifestations of disease and spotlight the means to overcome such conditions. This strategy can be couched in terms of advertising and publicity campaigns that aim to boost public education. Similarly, financial services provider can work to burnish their image as socially responsible companies that inform and educate public citizens about the benefits of various financial instruments. These campaigns underline the spirit of public education so that consumers and customers can make informed choices in terms of the financial products they wish to invest. We note that in both these cases, brands and businesses are adopting a pro-active stance that remains outside of the ambit of pure profit.
Businesses can choose to promote consumer causes in tune with modern consumer trends. For instance, a packaging manufacturer can encourage members of the public to eschew the use of plastic packaging because this product destroys natural habitats and interrupts the flow of nature’s energies. The said manufacturer can offer the option of using natural fibres such as jute and cotton based on the premise that these materials have a long life and are easily biodegradable. We note that this approach helps the said business to enlist in the ranks of socially responsible companies that promote the consumer’s cause. Further, the use of natural fibres such as jute and cotton helps to preserve rural incomes and native livelihoods, thereby creating a modicum of equity in modern societies. In light of the above, we may note that consumers would naturally appreciate such products, thereby leading to higher sales of natural packaging materials and bigger profit margins for such enterprises.
Clean power is an article of faith in modern times and companies can choose to re-orient their business operations to take advantage of clean power. For instance, a commercial electric power producer can commit itself to create a certain portion of its output from the use of wind and water-driven turbines. We note that incremental annual targets may be set so that the said producer provides consumers with carbon-free power generation within a certain time frame. We note that such ambitious targets are mandatory for socially responsible companies so that their business organizations are geared over time to switch completely to green sources of energy. Government regulators and consumers alike would appreciate and applaud such transformations that encourage the pursuit of responsible consumption and lifestyles. In addition, consumers may increase the volumes of their transactions with such ecologically sensitive purveyors of business.
Wildlife conservation is a contemporary theme that resonates deeply with modern audiences. We must note that customers and consumers would appreciate an opportunity to participate in such activities. Therefore, a business may devise schemes that enable consumers to make a direct contribution to wildlife charities. This process would be unmediated by accounting procedures and calculations, thereby enabling customers to participate in wildlife preservation frameworks. We must note that complete transparency must attend these schemes so that consumers are aware of the actions subsequent to their donations.
Recent consumer trends and market research indicate that beyond a personal appreciation, consumers that patronise socially responsible companies often tend to recommend such companies to their friends, peers, and family members. We note that such consumer behaviour is potentially a force multiplier for businesses and therefore, more businesses should consider investing in the image of being a socially responsible corporate entity. In the era of ubiquitous social media, these consumers often extend the reach of a company’s publicity campaigns by initiating online conversations with their peers. These facts attest to the efficacy of creating and sustaining the practices pioneered by socially responsible companies.
In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined some of the mechanisms that enable commercial brands and businesses to enhance customer engagement through CSR initiatives. Every brand or business must realise that these are essentially long-term commitments and therefore, business managements should be prepared to stay the course. In addition to customer appreciation, the pay-offs from such initiatives include bona fide gains in terms of business reputations and an opportunity to pursue corporate goals located outside the balance sheets. Further, businesses must appreciate the fact that a socially responsible organization stands higher than a purely profit-driven business organization. Social responsibility enables businesses to gain a higher view of the world we live in and direct their energies beyond the straight and narrow of a corporate mandate. Further, the pursuit of such goals can attract the attentions of global investors that may elect to buy an equity stake in such organizations. In light of these factors, brands and businesses must re-energise their commitment to a social cause and rise higher in the corporate firmament.