Future of Commerce Blog

How Retailers Can Incorporate Social Good into Their Brands

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More and more retail brands are adopting missions towards their corporate social responsibility (CSR). And for good reason: More than half of online shoppers will fork over more cash for your products if you publicly support environmental and/or social causes.

Today, social good for brands is about more than simply donating to a non-profit organization. Social good is becoming integrated into brand missions, company culture, and even products. Below, learn the ins and outs of choosing a cause that makes sense for your business, and how to get your retail brand involved.

Benefits of Incorporating CSR into Your Retail Business

Having a strong CSR point-of-view as a brand can create a positive image in the eyes of 93 percent of the world’s consumers. CSR also increases trust in 90 percent of consumers and loyalty in 88 percent. The more loyal your customers are, the more likely they’ll return for repeat purchases. Return customers account for 22.6 percent of a business’ revenue despite representing less than 12 percent of the total customer base. They also spend 120 percent more over the course of a year than new customers).

Increased customer loyalty makes a huge impact to your retail business >

Beyond strengthening existing customer relationships, CSR can help you reach new audiences. Partnering with a visible organization puts your brand in front of their audience in a positive way. Additionally, philanthropic measures taken by brands can attract the attention of press, which allows you to reach even larger audiences.

 

Choosing a Cause that Makes Sense for Your Brand

When determining which cause(s) you want your brand to stand behind, think about what will make the most sense and the most impact. Your CSR initiatives should reflect your brand, your corporate culture and your customers.

Your Brand

The closer you can tie the cause to your brand and products, the better. Patagonia, for example, took a very public stance against the reduction of protected public lands. It was a no-brainer for the outdoor gear and apparel brand, an issue that very directly involves their product and their brand mission.

Similar brands like REI are very active in raising money and awareness for environmental issues. #OptOutside, their anti-shopping Black Friday tradition, has extended their initiatives to social media and garnered tons of user-generated content — not to mention a 23 percent increase in digital sales.

66 percent of consumers want brands to take a stand on major issues.

Jewelry brand Rustic Cuff incorporated social good into their Project Cuffway contest. Entrants styled outfits featuring the brand’s jewelry for the chance to walk the runway at a Project Runway event. This wasn’t just a contest for fun — Rustic Cuff founder lost her father to pancreatic cancer, so they raised $125,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

The cause became something very personal to the brand; something that humanized Rustic Cuff in the eyes of customers. Additionally, it made sense to have a fashion-forward campaign, showcasing products which can reach new audiences.

Your Employees

Getting your entire team behind the cause strengthens the messaging and the impact — and it can also help you attract top talent, especially among the Millennial generation. 63 percent of female Millennials are influenced in their employment decision based on the potential employer’s commitment to CSR (a statement which is also true for 45 percent of male Millennials).

When it comes to identifying the cause your brand will support and making it relevant to your targeted employees, it’s also essential to consider how they can give back too. If you’re only donating money, that gives employees less opportunity to become actively involved. But if you also hold fundraisers and events or offer hands-on volunteer opportunities for employees, you’ll have a more engaged workforce.

Your Customers

Last but certainly not least, the CSR initiatives you undertake should be relevant to your target customers too. At the end of the day, giving back can also help you grow your business. Consider which causes are important to your target customer and how they get involved in those causes.

Apparel brand The Elephant Pants donates proceeds to organizations committed to saving wild elephants. A quick look at their website and on social media will reveal that they target Millennial and Gen Z females — two generations that are more eco-conscious and likely to be vegetarian. Plus, their designs are elephant-inspired, so it’s safe to assume that The Elephant Pants customers have some sort of affection for the animal.

 

How to Incorporate Social Good into Your Brand Mission

Once you’ve chosen an issue to support, there are a number of ways to actually execute.

Products

90 percent of consumers want to see more responsible products from retailers. This is a huge opportunity to create products that meet these desires and make a difference (while driving sales at the same time).

According to cosmetics brand Lush’s website, “All proceeds from every Charity Pot sold (minus the sales tax, which goes to the government) are donated to deserving, grassroots organisations working to promote human rights, animal welfare and environmental protection.” Donating all (or some) of your sales to philanthropic initiatives is a straightforward way to incorporate CSR into your business.

You can also explore creating a limited-edition product or product line, an idea that’s especially relevant for brands partnering with non-profit organizations. South Carolina-based Just Wanna Melt enlisted the help of Sam, a local boy with autism, to create a limited-edition soap. He designed the packaging, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to an organization dedicated to autism. Nearly one-third of customers who bought the soap purchased other products, too.

Rather than creating a temporary product, you can also add a philanthropic background to all of your permanent staples. Look at TOMS One for One shoe-donation program or Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair initiative — both of which offer customers the feeling of giving back with every purchase they make.

Events and Campaigns

Hosting one-off or serialized events and campaigns, much like Rustic Cuff, is a great way for brands to embark on social good. This allows you to support multiple causes, test new ideas, and have something newsworthy to share and generate new interest in your brand.

Triad Yoga Institute,which has a retail shop at the studio, hosted an event in support of a local animal shelter. They had dogs and cats available for adoption, free yoga classes, and giveaways and raffles.

Take advantage of timely events. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, many retailers stepped up to help those in need. Starbucks vowed to match their employees’ contributions — a move that studies have found fosters more engaged employees. shared the project on their corporate website.

Becoming a Social Good-Focused Brand

Jewelry retailer Pura Vida started their business based on a social good mission. Since founded, they’ve hired artisans all over the world to create their products. They’ve also partnered with more than 174 organizations and donated upwards of $1,440,822.

“Social good” doesn’t have to be actively charitable. Package Free has eliminated all unnecessary packaging, and thus waste, from their products. Another example, Brandless, was founded on the idea of rebelling against brand labels. Reformation has built a brand dedicated to sustainability, and Everlane is a notoriously socially conscious brand that supports ethical labor standards and transparency. Simply taking a stand and doing business in a more responsible way is enough to garner support around their mission — and products.

Committing to social good as a retail brand is one way to drive customer loyalty and repeat purchases >

Ellie Kulick

Ellie is an experienced Marketing Communications and Content Specialist based out of San Francisco, CA. Passionate about technology and health, she is constantly looking for new challenges in effective communication and creative content development to help businesses grow and engage with current and prospective customers.

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