Most Americans believe companies have an obligation to take actions to improve issues that may not be relevant to their everyday business operations. Today's consumers factor a company's core beliefs into their shopping decisions. Eighty-seven percent say they'd purchase a product because that company advocated for an issue they cared about, and more than three-quarters would refuse to purchase a product if they found out a company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs. Add to that the fact that 70% of consumers will spend more on brands that support causes they care about and you start to see the value of socially responsible marketing.  

There's a growing consensus that Millennials prefer to do business with corporations and brands with positive social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods, and ethical business standards. However, the reality is that across generations, consumer involvement with sustainability is at an all-time high. Eighty seven percent of adults participate in some form of sustainable activity and these concerns impact their values attitudes and actions.

So, it makes good business sense to align your processes and policies with these consumer priorities. It also makes sense to consider how your marketing can communicate your company's values to build consumer trust and loyalty. Here are five business actions that Americans prioritize and how you can create marketing that aligns with these values:

Being a good employer (94%)

This may seem like a tough one to leverage in your marketing. But there are ways to demonstrate that you care about your employees through a variety of messages. For example, perhaps you allow employees a certain number of days off to donate their time to causes they deem worthy. Maybe you provide educational opportunities to allow employees to improve their growth potential. Or you might offer flextime to help employees maintain work-life balance. Whether these are new benefits--or you've been doing this for years--you want to be sure that these positive aspects of working with your company are featured in your want ads and on your about page. If treating employees well and encouraging them to support causes they care about are part of your company's ethos, consumers will take notice.

Operating in a way that protects and benefits society and the environment (90%)

Do you source your ingredients or raw materials locally? Sustainably? Mentor local kids? Donate job-interview clothes to the women's shelter? There are a multitude of ways that your organization can do business ethically and responsibly and support causes big and small. These sorts of activities should also be highlighted in your about page; in your PR and marketing "story," in which you clearly communicate not just what you do and why, but the values that underpin every choice you make. However, these sorts of decisions can be featured in your marketing or advertising as a story in itself, or as a "footnote" to every ad or marketing message.

Creating products and services that ensure individual wellbeing (89%)

If you are a local wellness center, you've got this one in the bag. But for other types of businesses, this may seem more difficult. So, consider the way in which your services enhance the health, happiness, and lowers the stress, workload, etc. of your customers lives--and position your marketing to highlight this aspect. Think about the way in which home services companies talk about freeing up your time to do things you love, for example. Or that a beautiful lawn makes family barbeques even better. Tell these stories, paint these pictures, and consumers will see you in a more positive light. That said, even the way in which you respect consumer choice and privacy in your marketing practices helps ensure individual wellbeing. I'm pretty sure that unwanted phone calls and emails are responsible for spikes in consumers' blood pressure.

Investing in causes in local communities and around the globe (87%)

This one has become a very popular advertising approach - and with positive results. From Aerie and Dove's body and beauty positivity campaigns to Stella Artois' support of safe drinking water and The Economist handing out coffee to highlight the impact of food waste, marketers have figured out that people want to do business with businesses that do good. In addition to traditional advertising messages that highlight your laudable perspective and actions, creating content marketing stories that tell the story behind your choices can be very compelling. But even if your marketing budget doesn't allow for this level of storytelling, you can communicate your actions at check out. Say, "we support Cause X. Join us by donating" and allow customers to round up their purchase or add a donation to their total. You communicate your values, your commitment, and enhance your sense of community by engaging their participation.

Standing up for important social justice issues (78%)

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Walmart and Dick's raised their minimum age for gun buyers to 21 and a slew of companies publicly ended their association with the NRA. Without a doubt, actions like these can be polarizing for consumers. However, there is no doubt that standing up for social justice makes a bold statement and that people will take notice. But something as simple as setting up a complementary water stand at a local march or donating a gift for people who adopt a pet at your neighborhood shelter clearly sends the message that your business is one that cares. And for many customers, that will make you their go to in the future.

There are lots of good reasons to do good, act ethically, engage in sustainable business practices, and to support causes. They provide ample opportunities for telling terrific stories about your company through content marketing and advertising. And let's not forget the "free marketing" you may get through positive PR and public sentiment. But there are other benefits. For example, sustainable policies aid in employee satisfaction and retention. And let's not forget that doing good is good in itself. Do good, feel good, and it will rub off on your customers and bottom line.

Published on: Mar 19, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.