Compared to even a few years ago, businesses of today are definitely revealing more of their values and their ethical stance to consumers.
For example in the fashion industry, many brands recognise the importance of aligning themselves to campaigns like ‘Who Made my Clothes,’ which promotes fairer supply chains and greater transparency.
Consumers are taking notice too. Research cited in an article claims Americans are 8.1% more likely to purchase from a company that shares their opinions and are 8.4% less likely to when they don’t. It’s no longer just about whether a person likes the product or service, it’s also about whether they like the company’s position on certain pertinent issues.
More recently the campaign for marriage equality has seen businesses taking a stance and publicising it. Organisations such as Allianz, Bonds, H&M and Jb HiFi have joined over 800 other businesses in Australia in supporting marriage equality. As has my business.
Alan Joyce from Qantas has been incredibly vocal in his support. Whether intentionally or not, when CEOs such as Joyce express their sympathies on issues, their companies become associated with those views. While his viewpoint is unlikely to represent the views and opinions of all Qantas’ employees, their shareholders, and customers through Joyce, recognise that Qantas has taken a stance. Personally, I think he and they should be commended for driving change.
How can you take a social stand?
There are many ways you can do so. You can make monetary donations (which are tax deductible); donate your own products or time to help the cause that you are supporting; make something that they require; introduce the charity to someone you know; or just simply help build awareness.
We partner and align our company with the charity RizeUp which raises awareness of domestic violence. We also donate mattresses to people who have experienced family violence, a small step in helping them rebuild their lives and to Sea Shepherd, the conservation organisation whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans.
Are there any risks?
My business’ support has not come without its criticism. Ultimately you run the risk of losing customers who don’t agree with you cause. You might also seek unwanted attention from activist groups or online trolls. Perhaps you should tread carefully on some social issues, as well as know where your target audience stands.
The potential benefits
Vocalising support or opposition for a social issue could benefit you as a company in a number of ways:
1. Increases your business reputation
Supporting a social stance shows potential customers, clients and other stakeholders that your business is dedicated to a cause. This increases community engagement, public perception and overall reputation of your business.
2. Makes you more appealing
A business which supports a social stance is more likely to be favoured, and therefore engaged with, than one which doesn’t. Customers are becoming more and more appreciative of companies who have a social mission or who are socially conscious. They prefer shopping or dealing with these types of companies or using their services.
3. When you give back, you also help raise awareness
We hope that via our website and through various communication such as this article we raise awareness of our social cause. If I am honest, though, we have also often downplayed our support for our charity because we don’t want people to think that we are profiting on the expense of those less fortunate than ourselves. Or that we are jumping on the bandwagon of public sentiment in Australia towards domestic violence, when that is definitely not the case.
4. Excellent for employee retention
A company that supports a cause or charity is more likely to attract better employees. It can also lead to increased loyalty, team building and better retention. It helps to instil a sense of pride and satisfaction in themselves and your business. But of course you have to practice what you preach.
5. It can define your business
It can differentiate you from your competition. It can be the basis of your brand presenting you and your business as ethical and trustworthy.
6. You can reach new audiences
When you make a social stance, alight your business with a charity, big donation or sponsor a charity event, your brand name is written everywhere from event brochures to flyers.
Therefore, these kinds of donations help you put your name out there and show everyone that you care about social problems.
7. Because you should
I think as business owners and players in our community we have the platform to educate and raise awareness of issues that perhaps other are less educated in. I think it’s our moral duty to be socially responsible and I am proud that I am. I think this is worth more than any of the reasons above.
In the past, it was enough for companies to communicate what they stand for. Today I think they must also communicate what they stand up for. What do you think?