With today’s consumers becoming more and more socially conscious about where and how they spend their money, their expectations for the brands they support have risen. To continue to succeed, brands are putting greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility, looking for ways to have a positive impact on their local and global communities in addition to just making a profit.
For brands that haven’t yet started this journey, or for those looking to level up their current efforts, taking a few key steps can help jump-start success. Below, 10 members of Young Entrepreneur Council elaborate on those steps and why they’re so vital.
10 Steps You Can Take to Build a More Socially Responsible Brand
- Build your culture around your values.
- Show transparency.
- Offer something that will improve society.
- Put people first.
- Make social responsibility a year-round priority.
- Seek out expert opinions.
- Consider your audience's needs.
- Support a related cause.
- Make it a key indicator of success.
- Have the right leadership in place.
1. Build Your Culture Around Your Values
The brand is the mirror of a company’s culture. If that culture is built around values — think of your purpose and the emotional and functional values people see in your company — make sure one of them is social responsibility. Everyone in your company needs to know about it. People are smart; they commit to what they co-create and, therefore, will execute great ideas to make the brand socially responsible. — Dmitrij Żatuchin, DO OK
2. Show Transparency
Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) has taken center stage, with a growing number of brands strengthening their ESG programs. Customers want to see more than just a report. They want to know about the leadership of the company, the suppliers they work with, their sourcing practices and how they treat all the people in the company. Brands need to take action to align themselves with the values of loyal customers. — Ryan Stoner, Dendro
3. Offer Something That Will Improve Society
We’re a technology company, and we offer scholarships to students who have taken STEM courses during their undergrad. We offer this via local universities in Maryland and Chicago. This helps us to promote what we strive for and also helps us make a social impact. Every company can offer something in their field that can help to improve society. — Piyush Jain, Simpalm
4. Put People First
Putting people first is the best way to build a socially responsible brand. You need to understand their needs and wants, and you need to make sure that your brand is making a difference in their lives. — Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
5. Make Social Responsibility a Year-Round Priority
Don’t be like those companies that only embrace social responsibility when it’s convenient. You aren’t fooling anybody these days. Make social responsibility a part of your core values. Hire people who represent this ideal. Design your products to be better for people and the environment. Do it day in and day out, not just during those obvious times of the year that every other brand does. — Andy Karuza, NachoNacho
6. Seek Out Expert Opinions
Social responsibility is becoming more and more essential to the success of any brand, especially those that are trying to grow rapidly. One key to building a socially responsible brand is seeking out the input of experts in social responsibility. Finding resources from these experts can teach you about actions that will make a tremendous impact on how socially responsible the company is. — Richard Fong, Senior Strong
7. Think of Your Business as an Extension of Yourself
Identify what your personal values are and let them be your North Star for your company. Building a brand for a company is an extension of who you are as the owner, including your background and beliefs. As a criminal defense law firm that keeps people out of jail, we believe one bad act doesn’t define a person, and that compassion goes a long way. — Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
8. Support a Related Cause
You can support nonprofits that coincide with your company’s mission. For example, I own an organic soap company, and one year we partnered with a nonprofit whose mission was to help build clean water infrastructures for third-world countries. For each bar of soap a customer bought, we donated a portion of the sales to the charity. It was a wonderful partnership that our customers appreciated. — Shu Saito, All Filters
9. Make It a Key Indicator of Success
Wanting to build a better world needs to be the core business priority, not an add on. It’s time to move away from business growth and revenue generation as the main indicators for success. That doesn’t mean doing well financially isn’t important or should be frowned upon. Building your brand around social responsibility will invariably lead to more financial success, however. — Robin Saluoks, eAgronom
10. Have the Right Leadership in Place
In order to build a socially responsible brand, you need to have the right leadership and management in place to set the company culture. Establishing expectations upfront coupled with a focus on transparency can help build a socially responsible brand. — Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC