10.19.2016

5 Reasons to Incorporate Active Corporate Social Responsibility into your Business Model

Integrating a philanthropic element to a business is not a new concept. I’m sure you have heard of a company’s corporate social responsibility, whether through your own professional experiences or within your consumer behavior. But, corporate social responsibility doesn’t just speak for itself anymore.

According to Harvard Business Review, last year alone, charitable contributions by U.S. companies fell by 14.5% and within the past 15 years, corporate giving has dropped by 50%. Although the numbers prove the decline in business success due to charitable giving, the decline symbolizes a shift in marketing that demands attention.

After analyzing the numbers, a binary presents itself between traditional corporate social responsibility and active corporate social responsibility. Traditional CSR can be defined as a business approach that contributes to stakeholders development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders. Active corporate social responsibility, which I define as a business approach that combines the efforts of cause-related marketing, where the mutual benefit is present for both the for-profit and non-profit businesses involved and centralizes these efforts through active marketing campaigns across multiple platforms. Traditional corporate social responsibility tends to follow a simple model where a business chooses a cause to monetarily support in order for credibility amongst stakeholders. Active corporate social responsibility is using your philanthropy as a marketing tactic, alongside other actively implemented objectives, strategies, and tactics.

Nowadays, marketing isn’t cut and dry like it used to be. You can’t just stick to traditional marketing mediums, and digitally, you can’t post a promotion and expect engagement, you have to be creative. According to Business Insider, 1 in 10 US desktop users have an ad-blocker in effect as they search the Worldwide Web. With ad-blockers as a threat, and simple promotions just not doing the trick, advertisements must be unique, without taking things too far. Cause-related marketing and active corporate social responsibility can fill that advertising gap while simultaneously benefiting your business in five unique ways:

Loafers-CSRHaving a charitable element further emphasizes your company’s trust.

In an article in the Communication and Society Journal titled “Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: re-assessment of classical theories about fit between CSR actions and corporate activities,” corporations are now evaluated with significantly higher expectations. With product quality and financial performance being two of the main influences on success, stakeholders are now judging a business’ success on a company’s moral criteria, such as how they became successful, the company’s values, and how the company contributes to social progress.

In the Journal of Management Studies, in an article titled “Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategic Implications,” corporate social responsibility that is strategically placed and acted upon is considered quality improvement that automatically creates a competitive advantage unless otherwise replicated within the industry. This being said, standards of evaluation are higher and expectations need to be met. By choosing to build a charitable element into your business, you are also choosing to build your company’s quality and moral criteria. Don’t just meet the expectations of your stakeholders, go above and beyond.

Millennials are particularly interested in cause-related efforts.

If your target audience reaches millennials, and you’ve been having trouble reaching them effectively, then you may have just hit the jackpot. In the Journal of Education for Business, in an article titled “Corporate Social Responsibility and the Millennials,” study shows that 61% of millennials feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world. With millennials so consciously involved in their actions and reactions, having a socially responsible business model will grab the attention of millennials as consumers AND as potential employees.

Amy Pohler's Smart Girls #WorldMentalHealthDay

Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls #WorldMentalHealthDay

Charitable trends such as hashtags and specific holidays are popular on social media.

As a social media marketer, I am constantly trying to stay on top of current trends in the news, in entertainment, in social media newsfeeds, etc. A few weeks ago, I didn’t realize it was National Coffee Day, and aside from my instant excitement (I love coffee), I realized that I missed a potential opportunity for engagement on some of my clients’ feeds. The social media marketing world is faced with constant change and a small window of time to tune into trends to achieve maximum results/engagement.

Including a charitable element in your business can help you gain considerable social reach if you plan the launch right. For example, sell a product that donates some proceeds to Breast Cancer Awareness, and launch the campaign during October, which is heavily concentrated with support in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or instead of doing one product, choose to support a charity all-year round. But make sure to capitalize on certain holidays and months that support your cause. A good example is Amy Poehler Smart Girls, a company founded by comedian, writer, mom and actress, Amy Poehler, that is dedicated to helping young people value intelligence and creativity as opposed to fitting to an expected societal standard. Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls #WorldMentalHealthDay

In this example, they incorporated World Mental Health Day into their everyday social media content to tune into, not only a social trend but a world trend in support of mental health. Tuning into social trends in support of charitable causes, even if not related to your company’s CSR, will increase engagement and reach while furthering your company’s credibility.

Your business can monetarily benefit

When it comes to corporate social responsibility, you aren’t just giving money or time, but in certain circumstances, you can gain monetary benefits that you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for. For example, certain initiatives like recycling and employee training can result in tax deductions. Not only will your business quantitatively prosper from an active CSR, but there are other significant advantages of CSR that will make it easier to recruit and retain employees, and create relationships with local news sources. Also, having a continuous relationship with one nonprofit will provide continuous marketing through a new perspective.

The greater good.

If all else fails, your business made a difference in the world and in the lives of those in need. Whether through environmental, educational, animal, or humanitarian efforts, your business will give the much-needed gift of support and love to the world. Whether local, national, or global, your business made a difference – and that’s pretty cool.

Does Active CSR sound right for your business? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Schedule a meeting with your employees to discuss what causes are important to everyone.
  • Research local non-profit organizations to find the charity that best suits you and your business. If you are a small, localized business then choosing a local charity will prove more beneficial than choosing a corporate charity. If you are a corporate business, choosing a larger foundation will prove most beneficial.
  • Do some research on the companies who are doing CSR right and learn from them. Then check out the companies who actively promote their CSR. Three companies who participate in active CSR are Starbucks, TOMs, and Tyson Foods.

Remember, the only way that this will be successful is if you actively incorporate charitable marketing into your regular social media routine.

This quote by Washington, D.C. attorney Peter Petesch, describes the only way that active CSR will work: “For corporate social responsibility to be as effective as it can be, it does need to engage everybody. It has to be integrated into an organization’s overall business strategy. An effective program needs to win over the hearts and minds of the workforce at all levels.”

By actively incorporating CSR into social media, you also must actively follow-through with all charitable elements. For example, if you say you are donating $5 for every sweatshirt sold, then you need to donate $5 for every sweatshirt sold. Overall, the benefits of incorporating active corporate social responsibility in your everyday marketing efforts are tremendous and worth a try.


Lizz Venanzi is a Social Media Manager at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about her, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the  Sparq team today.

Follow Lizz on Twitter,  LinkedIn & Instagram