More than ever before, consumers care about what brands stand for—so much so that it even challenges the traditional “bottom line” view of a company’s overall success.
In fact, 86% of Millennials said they believe organisations should be measured in terms beyond financial performance, according to the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report. Driven by this generational shift, consumers, overall, are paying close attention to what organisations stand for and act on, the study shows.
Whether that means brands are giving back to the community, driving social change, or acting on environmental issues—the announcement of Starbucks and McDonald’s partnering on an initiative to develop a recyclable, compostable cup being the most recent example—corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly considered just that: a responsibility, not an option. We take a look at how four brands are truly taking that responsibility seriously.
OzHarvest: A Charity For Charities
Partnering with purpose-led philanthropic organisations is one way companies can build authentic CSR offerings. That requires a good cultural fit and the desire and leadership to get there, according to Ronni Kahn, social entrepreneur and founder of Australia’s leading food-rescue charity OzHarvest.
“The culture and authenticity starts from the top. If leadership changes, your culture can change. It doesn’t take that long,” Kahn told CMO.com.
Kahn established OzHarvest in 2004, collecting quality food that would otherwise be discarded from commercial outlets and delivering it directly to more than 1,300 charities across Australia. In today’s terminology, OzHarvest began as a disruptor--a charity for charities.
Fourteen years later, the organisation has approximately 150 corporations approaching it for partnerships every year. One such partnership is with the Frost*collective, a Sydney and Melbourne-based creative agency that has worked with OzHarvest across every conceivable facet, from the charity’s annual reports, to its website, to the bright yellow vans that deliver rescued food.
“OzHarvest is a clearly defined, purposeful organization, and we feel very much aligned,” said Vince Frost, CEO and executive creative director at Frost*collective. “As designers, every day we have the responsibility of providing a solution that’s not going to damage the earth.”
A sign that such partnerships can be powerful? According to the House of Brands, which measures brand value, companies that align with OzHarvest have seen a 71% lift in customer satisfaction, Kahn said.
“We have profit; we just measure it in a very different way. It's not measured financially--it's measured by our impact,” Kahn said.
Patagonia: Repair Over Repurchase
Companies can also look at their supply chains for CSR opportunities. According to a YouGov study, across the Asia Pacific region half of all consumers believe businesses have a responsibility to ensure their supply chains don’t harm the environment.
Case in point: Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, which has been trying to reintroduce a culture of repairing rather than repurchasing. While that might seem counterintuitive for a clothing retailer, the company is looking at the bigger sustainability picture.
Patagonia says its mission is to "build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis." The company doesn’t see CSR contributions as an optional add-on of corporate philanthropy; they are built in to the standard business costs and core element of Patagonia’s brand.
Patagonia’s marketing has always been unorthodox: Its landmark campaign, dating back seven years, even called out the environmental cost that went into making one of its best-selling jackets in its Patagonia’s Black Friday Ad.
Also of note, for over 30 years Patagonia has donated 1% of its annual sales to environmental charities and grassroots organisations. Currently, the company is campaigning to protect the Tarkine forest in northwestern Tasmania.
“We use our brand to inspire change and to encourage people and business to act different,” said Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s global vice president of public engagement. “Our aim is to lead the way in promoting long-term solutions to environmental problems, and gaining World Heritage protection of takayna/Tarkine is just that.”
Adidas: From Plastics To Products
There’s no doubt that environmental issues are plentiful. For example, every year 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans. To that end, Adidas has a partnership with Parley for the Oceans Program, which seeks to raise awareness about major threats toward the oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.
Using plastic retrieved from beaches and coastal communities this is reworked into fabric, Adidas has created and sold as many as 7 million products, from shoes to soccer jerseys to yoga wear. The company’s foray into the circular economy also led it to create a donation program around the Run For The Oceans initiative, for which it matches the first million kilometres with one U.S. dollar to support the Parley Ocean School education program. The second iteration just wrapped up, with a total of 924,237 runners worldwide who ran a combined 12.4 million kilometres.
Oscar Wylee: Seeing Is Believing
Eyewear retailer Oscar Wylee is another business using CSR as part of its brand value proposition. Founded in 2012, its I Care for Eyecare initiative is designed to give back to the community in Cambodia. Oscar Wylee works directly with small, dedicated charities to train local doctors, help perform eye tests, and distribute glasses to Cambodians in need.
The company donates this help for every pair of frames it sells. "Our One For One charity means our customers contribute to giving back to the community," said Michael Lim, co-founder of Oscar Wylee.
Last year, Oscar Wylee partnered with charity Sight For All, donating 100% of all gross profits on World Sight Day to the charity. It raised $30,439. “I love how Oscar Wylee's have taken their crusade against vision impairment to the next level with their World Sight Day charity initiative,” said Bettina Banks, the Oscar Wylee & Sight For All ambassador in a 2017 interview.
It’s a comfortable fit for the eyewear retailer, given its trend-driving focus on Millennial customers. The retailer is empowering this cohort to help others, which, in turn, is positive for the brand.