InsightsPOSTED April 6, 2014

4 qualities of CSR industry leaders

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Walmart Canada

In high school, I would purchase products based on familiarity. Did my sandwich look like everyone else’s? Did I have the same jeans as Jill? In university, I found myself purchasing based on whatever was the cheapest. I lived off of yellow labels and Allen’s apple juice.

Now, cautiously approaching my ’30s, I find myself becoming loyal to companies that I morally relate to and believe in wholeheartedly when it comes to their CSR (corporate social responsibility). According to a study conducted by the Reputation Institute, it was discovered that “people’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company, is driven 60 percent by their perceptions of the company and only 40 percent by their perceptions of the products.” It appears that I am not alone in my reasoning.

These perceptions are not based on “chequebook philanthropy,” but on core values instilled strategically within a corporation.

There are 4 qualities possessed by industry leaders in CSR:

1. Transparency

Transparency allows for increased trust from stakeholders and can help reduce reputational risk in the event of a crisis. In 2012, McDonald’s launched Our Food, Your Questions. After reviewing the website and feeling reassured in the quality of their beef, I promptly purchased a Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Allowing customers to speak directly to the company, ask questions and share feedback strengthens trust in the brand. Taco Bell’s Reddit AMA is a perfect example.

2. Innovation

In 2012, Shell Canada partnered with 11 other companies and founded Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). COSIA has now grown to 14 companies. These companies have combined to develop over 500 new technological innovations and are dedicated to finding solutions that lessen the environmental impact of oil sands production. Knowing this, I happily drive the extra five minutes to the Shell station to fill up my Yaris.

3. Strong workplace perception

In conjunction with their financial literacy program and their support with the renewable energy sector, The Bank of Montreal has a diversity policy that promises women must make up a minimum of one-third of the bank’s independent board.

I am getting married, and my fiancé and I bicker over our registry, he doesn’t want one. I don’t want 15 blenders. He joked that if we register, it should be at a bank. If it is, it will be BMO.

4. Sustainability

A sustainability program  doesn’t mean much unless the entire organization buys in, from the C-suite to staff. Our client Walmart Canada’sMy Sustainability Plan program encourages their 85,000+ associates to adopt environmental practices. This is just one of Walmart’s many CSR initiatives: in November they became the first large Canadian retailer to convert to LED lighing.

Molson Canadian has been taking strides to do their part for the environment by reducing their “beer print.” Molson is one of the first major brewers in Canada to convert its brewing byproducts by using fuel-grade ethanol to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, ultimately creating a more environmentally-friendly product. Cheers.

I am easily overwhelmed by choice, and when there is an entire grocery aisle dedicated to shampoo, it causes me incredible anxiety. However, I feel confident in my purchase of $7.99 volumizing hair soap when I know that the company possesses the above characteristics.

In an age of transparency, credibility matters, and companies that take CSR seriously are the leaders in their industries. In the end, both the consumers and the brands come out as winners.

How does CSR affect your spending habits? Our agency administrator Tara Benjamin wants to know. Follow her on Twitter.

Need help building a CSR program for your brand? APEX has the expertise.

(Photo by Walmart/Flickr)



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