Social Responsibility: What Companies Can Learn from Mission-Driven Orgs
Whether your company subscribes to the double bottom line of purpose and profit—the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit—or another corporate social responsibility framework, its social impact is important.
The role that corporations play in our world is a major concern for consumers, investors, and employees. Harvard Business School Online reports that 77% of consumers are motivated to buy from companies committed to making the world a better place, while 73% of investors say that a company’s efforts to improve the environment and society contribute to their investment decisions. And 93% of employees believe their companies must lead with purpose.
While these attitudes have evolved over many years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a massive re-assessment of personal priorities. Harvard Business School Online also reports that since the start of the pandemic, 58% of consumers have given more consideration to human impact on the environment.
Corporations are well-versed in crafting consumer-facing digital experiences that position how their offerings fit in our world. However, they’re typically less open about how they behave in our world.
Shifting consumer, investor, and employee expectations demand that corporations consider people and the planet alongside profit. Your corporate website is where these audiences arrive for a holistic view of how your business's financials connect to its deeper held values and social impact.
In the mission-driven space that Velir has worked in since day one, we’re well versed in highlighting values in action and framing the connection between an organization’s work and the greater good.
Consider the Annie E. Casey Foundation, whose tagline, “Our big ideas are building a brighter future for America’s children, youth and families” frames the homepage of their flagship website. That sentiment is then reinforced at every turn–from the strategies that they employ to the grants they provide and the data they share in their KIDS COUNT® Data Center that Velir built 20 years ago and continues to maintain.
Four Mission-Driven Insights to Inform Your Corporate Social Responsibility Narrative
Given our deep experience with foundations and other mission-driven organizations, we’re familiar with the similar challenges corporations face in communicating their social impact. So, we wanted to share four insights to keep in mind as your company launches and evolves a digital experience to convey its corporate social responsibility efforts more effectively.
1. Home is Where Your Community Building Starts.
Community engagement often starts in your corporation’s hometown, but it doesn’t end there. It’s no different for philanthropic organizations. Think of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Seattle, the MacArthur Foundation and Chicago, or the Kresge Foundation and Detroit. Each of these foundations has deep hometown roots, even though their reach and impact have scaled far beyond them. Position your company’s hometown outreach as the first step in its community-building journey, not its destination. This will allow your community-building narrative to scale along with your efforts.
2. Your First Social Initiative Won’t be Your Last.
Your organization probably tackled a specific issue as your first foray into corporate social responsibility. Maybe sustainability was a high enough priority to earn a dedicated section on your website, but social justice issues or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals have since come into focus. Avoid the impulse to shoehorn emerging social efforts under the umbrella of that first social impact initiative. Giving each issue its own dedicated space will reinforce your company’s commitment to its full breadth of initiatives.
3. Impact is More Important Than Investments.
Focus on the impact your company is making in the world rather than the amount of money it’s spending on social initiatives. Foundations often publicly share the grants that they have made just as corporations tout their charitable giving. But it’s easy for money to be mismanaged and numbers can be hard to fathom. Use storytelling tactics to feature people and places your company serves rather than the dollars it spends. This will connect your investments to the change that you and your audience want to see in the world.
4. Everyone Wants a Job They Care About.
Mission-driven organizations, whose values are readily apparent, have long attracted likeminded job seekers. In the corporate world, an organization’s values aren’t always as apparent, but they’re equally important. Consider a recent McKinsey study which found that, “70 percent of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work.” Both current and potential employees want to understand how your company’s values align with their personal beliefs. Be clear in communicating your company’s values and how you put them into practice to attract and retain purpose-driven talent.
Do Your Social Impact Efforts Align with Your Brand’s Perception?
Assess the gap between your brand’s perception and your social impact efforts to determine how best to frame them. If they are too far apart, your efforts will be met with cynicism. Sustainability goals will sound like ‘greenwashing’ and social justice statements will come across as misguided public relations.
Taking the First Step
To set your company on the right path, lay out your Corporate Social Responsibility goals. Determine how these goals connect to your company’s purpose, mission, and vision and then share exactly how you’re performing against those goals with your audiences. Consumers, investors, and employees will appreciate your transparency.
Social responsibility is the new corporate imperative and we’re here to help frame your efforts regardless of where you are in your journey. Contact us to discuss your organization and how we can help.