Every organisation aims to make money, but it is no longer viable to place sole focus on profits. A survey by Edelman found that 64% of people ‘will buy or boycott a brand’ because of its ‘position on a social or political issue.’ Keeping quiet and not speaking out can count as a negative response in today’s social media world.
Socially responsible companies are much more likely to attract and retain top talent and brand investment. A Gartner study found that 68% of employees would consider quitting their current job to work for a company with a stronger viewpoint on the social issues that matter most to them. In an Aflac study, 73% of investors said that ‘efforts to improve the environment and society contribute to their investment decisions.’
With so many causes and movements, it can be a minefield for companies to decide how and when to show support. Inauthentic activism can decrease trust, leading to potential friction and interpersonal conflict.
Before you plan which causes to back, consider asking yourself the following questions:
Will supporting this issue align with our company’s purpose?
As we described in our blog article on creating a purpose-driven culture, a company can find their purpose by analysing its why - why do we do what we do, why are we unique?
Purpose is a thought-out reason for being and evolving. It is part of an organisation’s identity, and it is the driving force for adding meaning to employee work. Research by PWC shows that employees need to find meaning in their daily work to be fully engaged.
To find your purpose, organise a meeting between senior executives to assess your values and mission statement. Once you have agreed, you must ensure your values are ones each leader can live by. Senior leaders must demonstrate what they expect staff to adopt.
When you have a clear purpose, you can look at different social causes and decide whether they align with your business identity.
Is this issue a problem at our own company?
It is all well and good deciding to collaborate with a charity dedicated to supporting a diverse workforce, but if your organisation does not have a robust D&I strategy in place, your support can seem misleading. In the same way, opting to champion organisations fighting for equality will not feel authentic to staff if managers and executives receive significantly more company benefits than workers.
Corporate social responsibility must make sense to all shareholders. As an example, LEGO joined the Bioplastics Feedstock Alliance to help advance renewable plant-based plastic. This partnership matches the brand’s sustainability efforts, which include reducing its cardboard intake, removing single-use plastic, and making pieces through sustainably sourced sugarcane.
Do we have a strategy to consistently support this cause long-term?
According to a study, nearly 94% of consumers are ‘more likely to be loyal to a brand when it commits to full transparency.’ A quick way to lose consumer trust is to half-heartedly support a cause by only temporarily sticking behind it.
Having a consistent stance on particular social issues can retain not just consumers but high-performing employees.
Do our staff believe in this issue?
Supporting social issues can increase employee retention and engagement, providing employees can understand the purpose of the causes you choose. Before selecting which causes to back, it is a good idea to individually ask staff about their values and what issues best connect with them.
When you have decided which issues to support, explain your reasoning, and try to gain feedback. Be mindful that certain issues such as America’s recent abortion ruling may lead to conflict and a divide.
Can we make an authentic difference?
A 2021 Porter Novelli Business & Social Justice Study found that 60% of people will hold an organisation accountable when it makes a supportive statement around a specific social justice issue. People want to see evidence of how a company is authentically trying to incite real change.
Before opting to support a cause, ensure you have the right resources and an effective plan in place that your business can commit to. Avoid vague sentences that do not specifically address your aims, such as: ‘We hope to make our corporation more sustainable and environmentally friendly by 2025’.
Do not deliver empty promises and impractical targets. Beneficial social responsibility calls for genuine and honest support.