Businesses exist to solve a pain point or desire in the marketplace. They also exist to generate revenue, employ people, and make the owners a profit. With so much tied up in these major focal points, most businesses forget about a third responsibility they have: to positively impact the good of society.

5 Tips for Being More Socially Responsible

According to research from the PR firm Edelman, 70 percent of consumers say they're willing to pay more to a business that supports worthwhile social causes. More than half say they would even help promote these brands. Despite this, just 39 percent of consumers say they know of brands that support good causes.
 
"The results of our study tell us that social purpose as a marketing imperative has global consumer appeal and can help brands build deeper relationships," says Mitch Markson, the president of Edelman's Global Consumer Brands practice. "We see a new phenomenon emerging called 'Mutual Social Responsibility,' where consumers and the brands they interact with every day take a mutual interest in and a mutual responsibility for being good citizens."
 
If you aren't currently investing in corporate social responsibility (CSR), at some level, then you're missing out on an opportunity to help others and build your brand.



Here are some practical steps you can take this year:

1. Study What Other Brands are Doing

While you don't want to be a copycat, there's much to be gleaned from studying what other successful brands are doing in their CSR strategies. Here are a few to keep an eye on:

  • Duracell has really made a significant push towards becoming a socially responsible brand that understands customer issues. As you can see in their campaigns, they focus on building trust by supplying power in high-need situations - such as the recent hurricane that decimated Puerto Rico.
  •  Ben & Jerry's is another good example. They've actually launched a foundation that focuses on philanthropy and social change work through grassroots activism in local communities.
  •  While many companies focus on local communities, other brands reach across borders and continents. Warby Parker's Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program is an example of a social cause that connects diverse people groups from around the world.

Your brand obviously has its own unique strengths, but approaching social causes in the same manner as these brands will ultimately prove to be quite fruitful.

2. Pick a Relevant Issue

You'll often see companies align themselves with a social cause and then fail to follow through on plans or meet goals. In most of these situations, there was a disconnect between the organization's beliefs and the social cause.
 
The key to a successful CSR strategy is to pick a relevant issue that matters to you and your team. In the case of Duracell, they're committed to supplying communities with power in the wake of natural disasters. This is something that's built into the company's core values.
 
A relevant issue would be something that's not only important to your business, but also relatable to your audience. This is how you maximize the value of your investment.



3. Hire Strategically

While there's evidence to show most people have positive associations with CSR strategies, millennials find social causes to be particularly refreshing and important in the companies they work for. If you really want to take your efforts to the next level, hire more millennials.

4. Give More Than Money

A lot of businesses invest capital in social causes, but this does little to move the needle - at least in terms of public perception. In order to truly align your business with positive causes, you need to give more than just money.
 
Many businesses find success in offering employees paid volunteer time. In other words, they can go spend one day per quarter volunteering with a cause your company supports and get paid for their time.

This creates a sense of ownership within the company that is evident to those outside the organization.

5. Don't be Shy About Promotion

While there's a lot more to CSR than publicity, it's hard to ignore the role it plays. In order to really get the most out of a positive social cause, make sure you're also coming up with a promotional/branding strategy to get the word out.

Not only will this bring positive publicity, but it'll shine a light on the cause you're supporting.

Be Genuine and Honest

You aren't going to make everyone happy. Even if you're convinced that the social cause you're investing in is perfect, there will always be people who will complain or disagree with your ideology. At the end of the day, all you can do is be genuine and honest.
 
A good social cause, coupled with transparency, will help your brand overcome a litany of mistakes and forge powerful, profitable connections with your customer base.

Published on: Feb 21, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.