A report published by Unilever in 2017 revealed that more than a third of consumers are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.
There is growing pressure for brands to commit to being more socially responsible. In the current socio-economic environment, conscious consumerism is continuing to gain popularity. Modern consumers (who are primarily made up of Millennials and Generation Z) are inherently more aware of the brands they support and invest in, when compared to Generation X.
According to the Business Dictionary, social responsibility is “the obligation of an organisation’s management towards the welfare and interests of the society in which it operates”. Simply, if your brand isn’t evolving in line with the changing causes and beliefs of its audience, then you risk being left behind.
Social responsibility is a powerful tool that can help your brand or business connect with consumers on a more profound level – but only if you do it properly.
From introducing recyclable packaging, reducing the carbon footprint of products to donating a percentage of profits to charity are all examples of how social responsibility can be integrated into your brand’s marketing strategy.
Millennials are more likely to make a purchase if it supports a cause
According to Futurecast, almost 50% of Millennials would be more willing to purchase from a brand if they knew their investment would support a cause.
Becoming an advocate for an issue is a crucial way of reassuring your customers that your brand cares. From forest fires and microplastics to the ongoing refugee crisis, it can seem like everyone is trying to make their voice heard about the issues.
By speaking out in public (or on social media), you can help reinforce the belief that the fact behind your brand is human (and has values and beliefs) as well.
Social responsibility can increase brand loyalty
Social responsibility has emerged in recent years as an important selling point across many industries. In 2015, the annual Nielsen Corporate Sustainability Report revealed that 66% of consumers would be willing to pay more for products from companies whose values aligned with their own.
Being able to prove that your brand is socially conscious can help increase brand loyalty amongst similarly-minded consumers. Associating your brand with a cause you know your audience will be invested in allows consumers to express their values both physically and mentally. Continuing to support these causes can increase the likelihood of customers making repeat purchases, while remaining emotionally invested in the brand.
Meet the brands daring to be bold
With the rise in changing consumer attitudes comes an increase in socially-conscious brands. Here are some of our favourite socially-conscious brands who are making their voices heard in the current climate.
Since being founded in 2006, TOMS (the fashion brand) has been committed to helping people in need, through their ‘One for One’ promise. For every product sold, TOMS helped provide shoes, clean water and safer birth services to people in need. The promise was that popular that the company sold more than 10,000 pairs of shoes in its first year alone, and the buy-one-donate-one model has been adopted by other brands – like the One World Play Project and SoapBox.
In the years following, the promise has evolved into something more than shoes. To combat poverty, TOMS now manufactures its shoes in the areas in which they were previously donated – which has lead to the creation of over 700 jobs. The brand has also recently expanded into coffee – and proceeds from its sales are donated back into the communities that grow the beans.
Ben & Jerry’s may be over forty years old, but it has been an advocate for global change since its foundation. Over the years, the brand has spoken out against the use of artificial growth hormones, corporate influence in politics and oil drilling – not to mention the fact it invests in renewable energy projects to offset its employees’ carbon emissions!
Even in 2019, the brand continues to champion the issues it believes in – ranging from marriage equality to climate change. Ben & Jerry’s is so easily recognisable that the brand can mobilise its audience to bring about progressive change – not to mention that it isn’t afraid to take a risk and speak out in favour of real-world issues.
Waitrose has been making waves recently with its corporate social responsibility – with its “most prominent and impactful” campaign being launched in July of this year. Currently, the brand is trialling a refill and bring-your-own container scheme at a store in Oxford, and is committed to removing problematic, black plastic microwavable meal trays from shop shelves by the end of the year.
Powered by the fact that its audience shared a similar belief, Waitrose (which is owned by the John Lewis Partnership), has been able to share a clear message, and encourage customers, employees and suppliers alike to think more sustainably – all while showing how they’re coming together to tackle the problem.
The bottom line
Brands need to look beyond the PR opportunity that being socially-responsible and sustainable presents them with. Choosing to align your brand with a cause that you know both the brand and its audience believe in will help generate a positive brand image, while increasing brand loyalty and boosting the likelihood of customers making repeat purchases.