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April 09, 2024

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

Corporate social responsibility aligns business mission with its impact on the broader world.

Corporate social responsibility: If you are only vaguely or not at all familiar with that term, you are not alone. Since I shifted to focus on B2B technology marketing 10 years ago, it’s a phrase that doesn’t come up in conversations frequently. But it’s time for that to change – corporate social responsibility is not only good for our communities, it’s good for business. In this article, I’ll explain why, but first, let’s start with some background.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a company’s approach to its impact on the world at large – our communities, our environment and our people. It’s not an annual volunteer day, a matching donation program or a recycling box – although those can be components of CSR. It’s a strategic initiative that aligns a company’s vision, approach and offerings with its place in society. Let’s look at a couple of companies with strong CSR programs:

  • Dove is one of my favorite examples of CSR. It strategically aligns the company’s core business with societal needs in a way that can both drive demand and loyalty for the business (i.e., revenue) while also contributing to the betterment of our world. From marketing campaigns designed to redefine beauty to community engagement initiatives to put self esteem boosting curriculum into the hands of teachers across the globe, CSR is truly fundamental to Dove’s operations.

  • TOMS Shoes is another familiar example, renowned for its revolutionary One for One® model. For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to a child in need. This basic concept has not only transformed the lives of countless children but has also fueled the company's growth, fostering a loyal customer base drawn to its socially conscious ethos.

But these examples – and the myriad of others that spring into my mind when I think of CSR – are for consumer products. The examples grow rarer when it comes to tech, and even more so when it comes to B2B tech. But it’s time for a new era of CSR - one not limited to B2C, product-oriented companies. A mission-aligned CSR strategy not only aids brand reputation, it propels customer acquisition and loyalty, engages talent and attracts investors - benefits attractive to all companies. In fact, Harvard rounded up research into the value of CSR, finding that 77% of buyers elect to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place; 73% of investors state that efforts to improve the environment and society contribute to their investment decisions, and 70% of employees wouldn’t work for a company without a strong purpose.

The proof points and real-world examples of CSR paying off are clear. If the two companies mentioned above aren’t enough, think of the loyal customer bases enjoyed by Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s. So why aren’t more companies embracing CSR? My hypothesis is two-fold: 1) the perceived difficulty in getting a CSR program off the ground, and 2) lack of distinct measurement tools.

Implementing a CSR program

The longer a company waits to think about how to incorporate a CSR program into its business strategy, the more difficult it will be to retrofit practices. But for companies that consider CSR from the start, thinking through how to match their values and mission with the concerns of their buyers and the economy at large, will have a much simpler time. Since CSR is not a tactic, but a business strategy, it doesn’t require extra resources per se, but it does require that companies think through how their CSR program should influence everything they do – hiring, sourcing, community engagement, operations, philanthropy, management, customer engagement, etc. Ensuring that these processes align with a company’s CSR approach is key to a successful implementation – and the difficulty of doing so will depend on how established those processes are and how much those processes deviate from the company’s purpose.

Measuring corporate social responsibility

Companies looking for a direct line between CSR and revenue are oversimplifying its benefits. And frankly, a mandate to do so shows that CSR implementation may not have true strategic, mission-aligned buy-in. Instead, companies must look at an array of impacts – both as they grow over time and how they compare to companies without strong CSR programs. Revenue is certainly one of those impacts, but so are customer and employer retention, job satisfaction, reviews and recommendations, environmental impact (e.g., reduced energy use), greater valuations and more. With a more holistic view of business performance, the true impact of CSR can be better quantified.

At Alloy, we love nothing more than helping companies connect their vision with the broader needs and demands of their customers, employees, investors, community and the world at large. It’s the epicenter of precision storytelling. If you need help defining your CSR program and telling its impact story, learn more about our PR and influence capabilities, and then let’s talk.