My favourite people are those who really want to help others around them. So I’m genuinely inspired by the tangible increase in social and environmental consciousness witnessed in recent times – with more and more people seeking to contribute towards making the world a better place for everyone.
What’s more, those people also expect to see their employers and the places where they spend their money, doing the same. The smartest businesses recognise that truth and embrace it wholeheartedly. And they’re doing that because:
- They’re staffed by people who feel the same way.
- They know it opens up the opportunity to authentically engage their customers, staff and communities. And this builds the next generation of customer loyalty and value under the theme “we care about what you care about”.
Time to rethink Corporate Social Responsibility
Large and medium sized companies have had Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budgets for a long time. Indeed Charities Aid Foundation tell us that the FTSE 100 spent £1.9bn on Corporate Giving. But authentic social responsibility goes beyond traditional CSR to a place where businesses truly want to support the specific individual causes that their stakeholders care the most about.
Clearly, authenticity is highly important, with people allergic to any sense of greenwashing or abuse of trust (take, for example, the impact on public perception of the motor industry, caused by Emmissionsgate…). But there are many examples of businesses who really do get it right and then benefit measurably from the positive impact on their brands. One of my personal favourites is Greggs Breakfast Club, but there are lots of great examples out there.
And then along came 2020…
For the first time in living memory the whole planet has a new and well publicised common enemy. And during the last few weeks, we’ve seen impressive actions taken by businesses both large and small, to meet the challenges we now face as a society. For example:
- Fuel companies like BP and Texaco offering free fuel to homelesness charities and the emergency services,
- Major supermarkets working with their competitors to address distribution challenges for the greater good,
- Pharma brands collaborating on vaccine production,
- Manufacturers rapidly repurposing production lines to service unprecedented demand spikes for critical products like PPE and ventilators.
What encourages me most is the genuine sense of authenticity in these responses. Companies doing these things simply because they’re the right things to do. For everyone, not only their shareholders.
When we get through the current crisis, people will remember the companies that show innovation, compassion and social responsibility. And the authentic social responsibility phenomenon will continue to accelerate long after the world returns to its ‘new normal’. At least, that’s my hope.