Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the driving force behind companies that give back to their community. It can come in various forms and guises, such as volunteering, donating or providing incentives; whatever shape it takes, though, it's not just the organisation's chosen causes that benefit.
Given the excellent brand publicity that such work generates, CSR is also a highly useful marketing tool, and it's not just limited to mega-companies; small businesses can also carry out social responsibility initiatives.
If you're wondering how your business can contribute and reap the mutual benefits of such a strategy, we've compiled a list of companies that have mastered the art of engaging positively with customers, communities, and employees.
Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility
As mentioned, a strong CSR initiative benefits everyone. All the companies in the list below are associated with the causes they support and the actions they have undertaken, and this positive connection is vital for building emotional relationships with your customers – particularly millennial and Gen Z segments.
Here are the companies we have selected:
Coca-Cola is an excellent example of a company that understands the consequences of its product – particularly in regards to its logistics operations and its use of plastics. As a result, it has taken several steps to address these issues.
For instance, as part of its World Without Waste initiative – launched in 2018 – the company has begun switching its Dasani water bottles from plastic to HybridBottles™. These new bottles are a combination of up to 50% plant-based, renewable materials and recycled polyethene terephthalate (PET), a highly recyclable plastic resin and a form of polyester.
Coca-Cola is also working on reducing the greenhouse gases that its delivery truck fleet produces. It has made positive changes to its supply chain and invested in non-fossil fueled trucks, with an overall deficit target of 25% of its carbon footprint by 2020.
The company isn't just addressing environmental needs, either. In 2014, Coca-Cola invested 1.3% of its operating income (or around $126m) in CSR projects including "healthy living initiatives, water stewardship programs, education, women's empowerment, humanitarian and disaster relief programs". In the Middle East, meanwhile, it has created several social responsibility campaigns allowing university students to become entrepreneurs through its 'Ripples of Happiness' programme, as well as provided refugees in the region with clean drinking water.
Vodafone is another example where CSR is considered a core part of the company's ethics, creating social responsibility programmes in the vast majority of the markets that it operates in.
One particularly important issue for the cellular network giants is gender equality, with the company seeking to connect 50 million women in emerging mobile markets, as well as become the world's largest employer for women by 2025. To this end, it has currently managed to connect around 20 million women, and increased management roles among women by 31%.
Within that timeframe, Vodafone also seeks to cut down on its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, and purchase 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. As of 2019, the company has reduced its greenhouse gases by 3%, and purchased 15% of its electricity from such sources.
The online consumer goods behemoth is a supporter of various causes across the globe – and especially within the US, where it funds numerous charities and programmes. It has also recently opened a distribution centre in Arizona that is tailored specifically to disabled employees.
Given its enormous carbon footprint, Amazon is also keen to give back to the environment. The company's investments in solar and renewable energy are well-documented, while owner Jeff Bezos has utilised his considerable influence and business clout to create the Climate Pledge, an initiative designed to align with and meet the Paris Agreement 10 years ahead of schedule. According to an official statement on its website, Amazon is aiming to utilise 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% renewable energy by 2030, thereby achieving "net zero carbon" by 2040.
Another technology giant with strong CSR ethics and a healthy track record is Google, which ranked fourth in 2019's World's Most Reputable Companies For Corporate Responsibility rankings (a report released annually by the Reputation Institute's CSR RepTrak).
Globally, Google's data centres use 50% less energy than those of its peers, while the company is continuously investing in renewable energy sources through parent company Alphabet.
Google is also working on making all of its shipments to and from customers 100% carbon neutral by 2020 while, starting in 2022, the company's 'Made by Google' products will comprise entirely of recycled materials.
Entertainment firm Disney also has a few ideas when it comes to contributing to social responsibility and supporting communities. Its CSR work is chiefly divided between environmental causes and philanthropy, where it supports sick children by bringing them the "magic" of Disney.
In 2018, for instance, the Walt Disney Company unveiled a five-year $100m investment to "help reimagine the patient journey in children's hospitals". It plans to support young patients by creating "customised" Disney experiences within hospitals, and to "inspire young patients and their families and ease the stress of a hospital stay."
Disney is not new to the CSR scene, either, having worked closely with childrens' charities and healthcare facilities since 1980. According to the company, it has fulfilled over 130,000 "wishes" for seriously ill children around the globe, and continues to grant more than 10,000 every year.
Swedish ready-to-assemble home furniture maker IKEA has also made its own contribution to corporate social responsibility by supporting communities struck by crises, building schools and donating toys.
It also recently announced a donation of $2.3m to bring and provide clean electricity for one million people across India and East Africa.
Of course, the companies on this list are all well-established, and are able to invest heavily in social responsibility. To create and launch your own CSR initiatives, though, you do not have to be so grand in your gestures. Take business networking website LinkedIn, for example; it regularly collaborates with governments, non-profits and even users to offer career development and job accessibility to refugees.
If you are a small business, you can start within your organisation by introducing and educating your employees about what social responsibility entails and how you want to incorporate it into your company's code of ethics.
You can then implement small-sized initiatives or measures to reduce your business's impact on the environment, or boost engagement via socially-impactful initiatives such as blood donation drives, food donations, collaborations with non-profits, literacy programmes and more. At the same time, try to work on making your product greener, or signing up to specific recycling programmes.
Remember, corporate social responsibility is primarily about giving back, but as these examples show – it also plays a role in your brand image and how people perceive and connect with you.
What other brands do a great job of CSR? Let us know in the comments below!