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Kevin Kanimyar

Customer Care

Embracing Corporate Social Responsibility From the Ground Up

Show your customers and employees what your company stands for

Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - 12:03

Amidst the rise of conscious consumerism, corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are fast becoming an essential part of any business. With about $20 billion spent every year by Fortune 500 companies alone, businesses around the world are working to integrate CSR programs into their business model. But while CSR programs have grown in recent years, not all are created equal.

Do it right the first time

One need only recall how Toms Shoes took the world by storm with their “one-for-one” model. Also known as “buy-one, give-one,” this social entrepreneurship business model seeks to simultaneously create commercial and social value. In short, for every purchase from the business, an equivalent or similar product will be given away to someone in need.

In susbsequent years many new businesses sprang up around that model, and many existing companies sought to integrate similar campaigns to help sell their products. None could quite capture the same attention as Toms, although many tried, but acting before you’re ready can do more harm than good.

With such a widespread trend, consumers and employees alike want to know that such programs aren’t for show but actually represent what your business stands for. Perceptions of “greenwashing,” when a company claims to stand for something but doesn’t follow through with genuine action or investment, illustrate the danger of improperly implementing a CSR program. If the program runs counter to your company, or isn’t backed by action, the resulting bad publicity will make consumers distrustful of any future efforts. Beyond the negative press, marketing based on deceptive claims can even lead to legal troubles, with one such case resulting in $3.5 million worth of penalties.

It may take more time to avoid these potential pitfalls, but you’ll not get a second chance. Ensure that you properly think out a CSR program, one that customers and employees alike can readily identify with your brand, and you’ll never have to look back.

Good for business, inside and out

In addition to the rise of consumers seeking to vote with where they spend their money, building a brand that leads with purpose has become important to job seekers. Similar to the rise of conscious consumerism, this trend has existed for some time now but was exacerbated by the global pandemic. Recent studies have shown more than 90 percent of employees believe a company must lead with purpose; showing a strong CSR program is essential to attracting and retaining key talent. When working for a company that leads with purpose, the same study showed employees are more likely to stay and more likely to recommend their workplace to others. Not only can a good CSR program help you keep talent, it also can help you attract it.

When I started my business, Yellow Tree Marketing, I had much of this in mind. I didn’t want it to be lip-service or a marketing gimmick, but something to show my customers and my employees what I, what we, truly stood for. While building my CSR program, I worked along three simple steps. You can follow these to implement a CSR program to have lasting and beneficial effects, not just for your business but for society as well.

First: Don’t overthink it 

This is at first glance the easiest step, but in fact it’s the easiest one to get wrong. When choosing the initiative you want to center your CSR program on, pick one that’s simple yet concrete and effective. Not only will this allow you to easily ensure the initiative dovetails with your company as it is now, but it will be easy to implement moving forward.

At Yellow Tree, we decided to center our CSR program around mitigating climate change—a concrete and easy-to-remember goal. To make this simple, we decided to plant a tree for every new client—a simple initiative, and one easily identifiable with the purpose of our CSR.

Second: Proper planning is essential

Once you have chosen what you want the purpose of your CSR program to be, step back and truly think about the best way to implement it. Then, choose the right plan of action and/or mission partner. If it can be done in-house, make sure you have a plan to keep it running smoothly from the start.

However, if your plan would be better implemented with help, don’t be afraid to go and find it. At Yellow Tree, we chose to go out and partner with One Tree Planted. They plant a tree for us for each new client we get, and another tree for every month they stay with us. They keep us, and our clients, up to date on their growth. This ensures the continued strengthening of our identity with our CSR program, and makes it easy for our customers to see that identity in action.

Third: Keep growing

Last but not least, use your brand messaging to drive a call to action to inspire more-effective change.We hope that the simple path we took inspires others to realize how easily a CSR program can be integrated into any business.

At Yellow Tree, our name, branding, and logo became inextricably linked. This ensured that all our customers would form a strong association between our company and our mission. By keeping our clients up to date on the growth of the trees they helped plant, we strengthen that association. With every day that goes by, our relationships grow with every tree, just as our brand association with our mission grows as well.

If the initiative behind your program becomes part of your corporate identity, your company, your CSR program, and its influence will all grow together.

By following these three simple steps, you can align your company with a social responsibility program that speaks to you, your employees, your clients, and—most importantly—allows you to have a true and lasting beneficial effect.

Discuss

About The Author

Kevin Kanimyar’s picture

Kevin Kanimyar

Kevin Kanimyar is a marketing expert, nature lover, and social activist with almost a decade of experience in marketing. His company, Yellow Tree Marketing, is dedicated to mitigating climate change by partnering with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every new client, and an additional tree every month the client continues to work with them. Activism has always been a focal point in Kevin’s career; prior to launching his own marketing firm, he founded a nonprofit that provides market-based literacy education for children in Nicaragua.