For a struggling young company, the idea of expending precious time and money on corporate social responsibility, or CSR, may seem counter-intuitive to your primary goal of building a strong company on a shoestring budget. However, in today's hyper-competitive, crowded marketplace, CSR can very well be the secret weapon that puts your company on top.

Consumers are becoming increasingly socially conscious. Millennials, which control an ever-expanding share of consumer spending, are perhaps the most socially conscious consumers in history. These consumers want to feel they are making a difference in the social causes they believe in. And they want to make sure that the businesses they deal with are also doing their part to support social causes.

Why is critical to your success? Millennials currently represent about a quarter of the US population, and control an estimated $200 billion in annual spending. Much of this spending will be largely directed at companies which they feel share their vision of social responsibility.

A business that gives back to the community is a business that will reap untold benefits in not only consumer good will, but in the form of financial buy-in by the community.

Here are a five good reasons that a CSR program can help your business:

1. Strong, healthy communities build strong, healthy businesses

Your business can't succeed if your local community is struggling. Supporting local charities and causes such as child care, homeless shelters, anti-drug abuse programs, or the local United Way, shows a commitment to strengthen your community.

2.Social responsibility that pays you back

Want to save money and save the environment while pressing home your CSR message? Reduce packaging as much as possible, and use recycled -- or recyclable - packaging materials. Also, simple steps such as replacing fluorescent or incandescent lighting in your building with energy-efficient LED lighting can send a strong message about your commitment to saving energy, while also saving you money.

3. Make CSR part of your story

Building and maintaining a strong, positive brand image is the Holy Grail of any company. Why not make your commitment to CSR a core part of your brand message? Your customers will thank you. Building your business around a strong CSR message is also a powerful way to differentiate your business from the competition.

4. CSR empowers employees and encourages employee buy-in

Employees want a company that shares their beliefs and their values. This will become increasingly important as Millennials take a more prominent role in the workforce. A strong CSR message encourages employee buy-in to your company and your brand, and strengthens employee commitment to build the best company that they can build.

5. CSR drives consumer choice

The rise of CSR has coincided with an increasing demand by consumers that companies play a larger role in improving the world around them. It's not enough to just build a good product at a good price. To succeed with younger consumers, your company must also become an agent of change for the good of the communities they work in, and for good of the world at large. Consumers recognize companies that are sincere about CSR -- and can instantly spot those there are using it simply as a marketing ploy - and will spend according. Embrace the power of giving back to your community that CSR represents, and customers will reward you with success.

As Millennials get older and have more buying power the will be looking for brands and businesses that they see as good citizens. Make a CSR program part of your story and part of who you are.

Published on: Oct 3, 2016