Everyday we’re inundated with more reasons why companies need to communicate corporate responsibility. We hear about mistakes (Apple’s supply chain, McDonalds’ ties with inhumane egg farmers), and we applaud the good (Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle and Chipotle’s commitment to local and humane farming).
Individuals are willing to go further than ever to do good; from buying locally to hiring personal eco-concierges. Increasingly, consumers want to buy from companies that care about the triple bottom line—so much so that we’ll research brands and their parent companies to know who’s behind them. “People aren’t fooled by sustainable sub-brands” such as Kashi or Odwalla Juice. Moreover, employees want to work for companies whose corporate responsibility is up to par. They’ll seek out those that practice a “fundamental human value that is authentic to the brand.”
That information isn’t hard to find either. We live in an age of unprecedented transparency. Lists like Co.Exist’s “25 Companies that Practice Good Corporate Citizenship and Still Make Lots of Money,” Sustainable Brand’s “50 Fastest Growing Brands That Serve a ‘Higher Purpose’” as well as articles about the corporations that aren’t doing it make it easy to spot heroes and villains. Through email blasts and social networks, this news spreads far and fast, making it harder than ever to get away with what consumers dub greenwashing.
With more eyes on accountable corporate responsibility, the way to do business is actually becoming the right way to do business. Customers and consumers know that information is power, and they arm themselves to and make decisions and a difference on every level. This is something to applaud, to step up to and engage.
In the 1990s, CR was downplayed as a “nice to do” or a mere marketing tactic. But in the past decade, the business case has been made: CR done right contributes to bottomline business success. The CR effort is not just something to bolt on to a company but can be a means to change the entire business. CR is a lens through which companies must see their business futures. Strategies and tactics that don’t consider impact on people and the planet, as well as profits, are already a step behind and living on borrowed time. But fear not. Consumers and employees alike know that CR is a process, and change takes time. For established businesses, the first step is commitment and accountability. Progress, as in life, is more important than perfection. So try!