Why B2B brands should prioritize social responsibility efforts in 2023
Social responsibility has become an increasingly important aspect of brand building and management. Consumers are more conscious of the impact of their purchasing decisions, and companies are under pressure to prove their commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. In 2023, it’s more crucial than ever for brands to prioritize social responsibility efforts to stay competitive and build trust with consumers.
What do these efforts actually look like in practice? A recent survey by AMA-NY, ‘The Future of Marketing’ pinpoints the top social purposes companies should address, according to respondents. Here’s how they rank:
- Being a good employer (34%)
- Corporate citizenship; giving back to the community (27%)
- Sustainability and environmental protection (24%)
- Racial equality (23%)
- Workplace diversity (23%)
Read on to discover the impact of purpose-driven B2B marketing in 2023 and examples of role-model brands that are doing corporate social responsibility right.
Why B2B brands should focus their efforts in 2023 on purpose-driven initiatives and commitments
Purpose-driven B2B marketing focuses on promoting a company's values and mission in addition to its products or services. B2B businesses that align marketing efforts with their purpose can establish a deeper connection with their target audience and create a more meaningful brand experience. Here are five reasons why you should prioritize corporate social responsibility this year:
1. Build trust with your audience
One of the key benefits of purpose-driven B2B marketing is that it helps to establish trust and credibility with potential customers. Consumers are more likely to perceive a company that is transparent about its social and environmental impact as trustworthy and authentic. This is especially important in today's age where consumers have access to more information than ever before and are skeptical of traditional marketing efforts. Brands that focus on social responsibility can differentiate themselves and build loyalty with consumers who are looking for companies that align with their values.
AMA-NY’s survey also highlights the rise of socially-conscious consumerism in today’s B2B industry. Results show that 72% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase from companies that do well on socio-political issues they consider important.
When a company communicates its values and mission, it is making a promise to its audience about the kind of business it aims to be. Consistent delivery of that promise can earn the trust of its target audience and build long-term relationships.
2. Stand out from your competitors
Consumers in 2023 make decisions based on corporate purpose commitments and actions. In today's crowded marketplace, it can be difficult for businesses to stand out. A company can differentiate itself and make a more powerful impression on potential customers by clearly communicating its unique values and missions.
Not convinced? The proof is in the payment. 38% of respondents from the same AMA-NY survey say they’d be comfortable paying over 10% of the average cost to support a socially responsible company. And 17% say they’d pay an extra 25% over average cost to a company that practices impactful CSR (corporate social responsibility) and ESG (environmental and social governance) programs.
3. Attract and retain top talent
Social responsibility can also have a positive impact on a brand's bottom line. Companies that invest in sustainable practices and have a strong social responsibility strategy tend to have lower costs, improve employee engagement, and attract and retain top talent.
Despite the unstable economy, recruiting and retaining talent continues to be a challenge in every sector. While job security and fair wages will be top of mind during an economic downturn, employee engagement and corporate commitment to social impact, driven largely by CSR teams, remain critical. Edelman’s special report “Trust in the Workplace” found that seven out of 10 employees want their job to bring societal impact, calling it ‘a strong expectation or deal-breaker when considering a job’.
TL;DR: Your employees will leave to find a purpose-driven employer if your company is not one.
4. Stay ahead of government regulations
Furthermore, social responsibility is important from a regulatory perspective. Governments around the world are implementing regulations and policies to address environmental and social issues. Companies that fail to comply may face significant penalties and brand reputation consequences.
According to GivingForce, the collaboration between national governments in Europe and private industries has increased — with the aim of protecting and promoting social objectives. After gaining wider prominence in the UK in the 1980’s during a time of high unemployment and social unrest, CSR has recently become a priority issue on the public agenda. A great example is France’s duty of vigilance law. Adopted in 2017, this law requires companies that have more than 5,000 employees in France or more than 10,000 employees worldwide to develop, disclose, and implement a plan to identify risks and prevent severe human rights violations and environmental damage resulting directly or indirectly from the operations of the company.
Investors are also looking for companies with strong social responsibility practices when making investment decisions. By prioritizing social responsibility, brands can mitigate risks and position themselves for success in a changing regulatory environment.
5. It's just the right thing to do
Perhaps the most important reason why your company should put corporate social responsibility efforts front and center: it’s the right thing to do. Promoting these efforts across your marketing channels is beneficial for your brand’s reputation and bottom line, but what’s more important is the real impact your efforts are making on the larger community.
Transparency in this area is paramount, and your brand should consistently be analyzing and improving its initiatives.
Two examples of brands that are doing corporate social responsibility right
While many companies have put their efforts where their mouth is when it comes to social responsibility efforts, a couple of brands in particular have set excellent standards.
Ben and Jerry’s
From ice cream to activism, Ben and Jerry’s does it all. Within the ‘issues we care about’ section of their website, they quote:
‘We believe that business has a responsibility and a unique opportunity to be a powerful lever of change in the world. We can use traditional and contemporary business tools to drive systemic progressive social change by advancing the strategies of the larger movements that deal with those issues, such as climate justice and social equity.’
They list five core movements they specifically support, with proof, resources, pledges, and initiatives to back them up:
- Voting rights
- Racial justice
- LGBTQ+ rights
- Climate justice
- Campaign finance reform
The list of socially responsible causes that Ben and Jerry’s has advocated for and put money towards is quite long, but here are a few of their most notable moments & commitments.
- Commitments to lower their impact on the environment, including goals to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2025, 40% greenhouse gas intensity reduction by 2025, and 80% greenhouse gas intensity reduction by 2050.
- To drive voter turnout among younger generations, Ben & Jerry’s partners with Rock the Vote (RTV). RTV street teams leverage the long lines of customers on Free Cone Day to register over 11,000 voters, resulting in the biggest one-day grassroots registration in Rock the Vote’s history.
- Ben founded 1% For Peace in 1988, which set a goal to redirect one percent of the national defense budget to fund peace-promoting activities and projects.
- 8 million Ben & Jerry’s pints carry a “Support Farm Aid” message as part of the grassroots efforts of Farm Aid, a non-profit organization with a mission to keep family farmers on their land.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking example of CSR comes from Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard. His announcement in 2022 of his decision to transfer company ownership to a trust and nonprofit dedicated to fighting climate change went viral. Though a big move, it follows a historical trajectory of the company charting new territory when it comes to activism.
Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. They’ve awarded over $89 million in cash and donations to grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities.
They also have a dedicated space on their website for promoting volunteer programs and petitions related to initiatives like sustainability, climate change, and fair trade.
Patagonia is currently committing to two goals as we move toward 2025:
- By 2025, 100% of Patagonia’s apparel products will be made in factories that pay a living wage.
- By 2030, 100% of the cotton and hemp fiber in Patagonia’s line will be Regenerative Organic Certified (which includes high-bar social responsibility standards).
The choice is clear: Strengthen your commitment to corporate purpose in 2023
Brands that prioritize social responsibility in 2023 will be better positioned to build trust with consumers, spread brand awareness, attract and retain top talent, and mitigate risks in a changing regulatory environment.
Brands that fail to prioritize social responsibility may risk losing customers and investors. As consumers become more conscious of the impact of their purchasing decisions, companies must demonstrate their commitment to ethical and sustainable practices.
Are you a leader struggling to define your organization’s purpose? A good starting point is to review the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and select one or two where you can have the most impact.
Start by establishing your commitments and communicating them transparently to employees and your audience. Most importantly: follow through on them. From there, do an annual audit on the initiatives you stand for, analyze your impact, and set the bar even higher.