Today, conscious customers have all the power.
Fail to meet their high ethical, socially responsible and environmentally-friendly standards in everything you do, and you’ll lose out on more than just a sale.
With one reproachful tweet or disapproving review, they can set off an avalanche of abuse that’ll swiftly destroy your reputation.
Scandals over slave labour and dodgy supply chains have even brought huge multinationals like Nike and Apple to their knees, forcing them to reevaluate the way they operate and manage every aspect of their companies.
If they have to submit to the demand for corporate social responsibility, then you and other SMEs certainly don’t have a choice.
Demonstrating corporate responsibility
But how exactly do you implement and demonstrate a strong commitment to socially and environmentally conscious ways of working?
In light of the big scandals of recent years, customers are more sceptical than ever. As such, building brand trust is difficult and won’t happen overnight.
Get it right, though, and it could prove lucrative – a 2015 survey from Nielson showed that 66 per cent of respondents were willing to pay more for products from sustainable and ethically-minded businesses.
With this in mind, here are a few steps that will help you put a clear and effective corporate responsibility strategy in place.
Practise what you preach
Don’t get involved with a cause marketing campaign or charity, tell the world about it and then carry on following bad practises within your day-to-day work.
Customers are savvy and determined to find out the truth, and they have the tools to do it (nothing’s secret online now, remember), so don’t give them any inflammatory or potentially embarrassing behaviour to sink their teeth into.
For example, if you make a song and dance about joining in with an environmental project, make sure every part your business is operating to as green a standard as possible.
Look after your employees
Fail to respect the legal rights of your employees and as well finding yourself in a hot water with the government, customers will also soon turn their backs on you.
Pay is an important area to focus on, especially since companies like Debenhams have recently made headlines for not giving employees their due wages. At the very least, give everyone that works for you the national minimum wage and implement the new workplace pension scheme.
And always prioritise the safety of your staff, especially if you run within the construction or manufacturing industries. Statutory inspection software from the likes of Motion Software will keep your sites and equipment in tip-top shape, reducing accidents.
Marketing social responsibility
Back in the day, a good cause marketing campaign would have been enough to satisfy conscious customers. Now it’s not just what you believe or do, but how you tell people about it that matters.
If you get involved in a local community project and create a whole load of content marketing just to boast about it, it can appear disingenuous. Customers want to know that your communications are authentic and that your motivation is solid.
Blogs and social media posts detailing your latest corporate responsibility efforts are ok, so long as you’re careful. Never overstate your intentions or the results, and always be factual. If you can, share your commitment in a subtle way, through labels on products, for example.
Saying that your business is committed to making positive contributions to its social and environmental surroundings is easy – and customers are aware of that.
The hard part is actually implementing those changes. It takes time to put those promises into action and see results, but if you’re prepared to be patient and see it through then people will appreciate your efforts.
Slowly but surely, you’ll build a strong brand reputation for quality, supporting ethical ways of working and maintaining high standards that conscious consumers will trust.
Do you have any other top tips for developing an effective, trustworthy corporate responsibility strategy? Leave a comment and let us know.