It takes nowadays much more to convince consumers of a company’s sustainable message. Consumers do not longer believe that planting a few trees in a rainforest will make a company ethical. In addition to this, with the rise of ultra-transparency, to be taken seriously as a ‘good guy’ ethical corporate values must be embraced by every employee and be present in the organizations’ core. According to Alasdair Marks, Business in the Community (BITC) corporate adviser, this is luckily already happening.
“There is a definite shift as companies are becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of understanding corporate responsibility and sustainability,” he says. “We’re moving away from the idea that CSR is about managing your negative impact. We tend not even to use the term CSR anymore.”
Marketing communications are changing as well. In the past, companies used to spend more on marketing their CSR activities, rather than the CSR itself. Nowadays, marketing communications are more on actually encouraging and supporting consumers to live sustainable themselves. This is reflected in the number of BITC award entries for the category ‘engaging consumers in sustainability’, as it went up by 250% this year.
“This is because more businesses are embedding their corporate responsibility work across their companies,” says Marks. A great example of is Marks & Spencer’s ‘Shwopping’ scheme, where customer can bring their old clothes to stores either to be recycled or donated to Oxfam.
Even if these CSR practices generate a positive message, Mark believes that corporate social responsibility “only really takes hold when companies understand that there is a commercial opportunity associated with sustainable growth”
Research has proven that there is in fact a link between CSR and a business’ profitability. A research among FTSE 100 companies showed that companies which integrated ethical principles across all their operations outperformed their peers in shareholder return. Not only returns were higher, the share prices of these businesses were noticeably less volatile as well.
Having proper corporate ethical values more important than ever. “Nothing is secret any more” says Jake Dubbins, managing director of MediaBounty. “people-powered groups […] like Greenpeace, are shining a spotlight on corporate practices like never before, and, crucially, forcing real change”. Also for millennials (people born between early 1980s to the early 2000s), ethical brand behavior is key. If a brand behaves inappropriately, it is quickly discarded. The same applies to their employer choice. According to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2015, 77% said their company’s social purpose was part of the reason they chose to work there.
It seems obvious that for true long-term success, companies must adopt these principles to remain at the top. Millennials are already giving us these signals, re-shaping corporations and it is likely that the preferences of the future consumers of generation alpha (born after 2010) will push the need for ethical behavior even further or even making it a standard practice.
To learn more:
What brands need to know ultra transparency
More on the same topic:
How social media helps to push CSR activities in companies
Why does CSR have to evolve?
CSR as a corporate success factor