Over the past few years, corporate social responsibility has been on the rise. CSR, as it’s often referred, is the concept of integrating social and environmentally conscious practices and programs into existing business models. When it first started to gain popularity, it was a brand differentiator, and not every company understood its value. But it quickly became clear that CSR isn’t just good for the world, it is also good for business, both in terms of employee acquisition and retention, as well as attracting and retaining customers. As a result, a growing number of businesses got on board, and CSR became much more than a trend—it became the norm.
The more businesses we have launching CSR initiatives, the better off our world will likely be… but it’s important to point out that there is a big difference between businesses that implement impact programming to check off a box, and those that build or adopt a culture of consciousness that is apparent in everything that they do.
The latter are more likely to succeed in addressing issues, managing situations with sensitivity and grace, and making long-term change. These are the companies we truly admire, the ones we want to work with and support. Here are a few that we’ve been following:
Quicken Loans is an incredible example of a business that was not built with social impact in mind, but that has truly folded social consciousness into its brand. In 2010, CEO Dan Gilbert moved the company’s headquarters to downtown Detroit in an effort to play a bigger role in the community. Since then, the company has exhibited a deep commitment to helping the community recover from the effects of the city’s economic downturn. This commitment starts with the company’s own employees. Quicken is known for its culture of hands-on support and nurturing and generous benefits packages., They also often partner with local nonprofits to put on volunteer days, and give employees 8 paid hours per year to volunteer independently. In 2015, they donated over $16 million to nonprofits, and completed 100,000 volunteer hours.
Everlane is a not your average clothing brand. While its staple products are basics, its business model is anything but. Focused on the concept of “radical transparency”, the company places high value on ethical sourcing, honest communication, and asking “why” when making key decisions. Everlane takes a hands-on approach to partnering with factories, doing extensive research and visiting sites prior and during production, thereby ensuring adherence to standards and a relationship that goes beyond just the transaction. They are also transparent with customers, sharing the cost of producing each item of clothing, as well as how much and why it’s marked up. They even reduce and raise prices as production costs ebb and flow. Last year, for example, they announced that they would be dropping prices on cashmere sweaters because the cost of making them had decreased. Their values of fairness and transparency are apparent in every aspect of their marketing and communications, because it is truly part of their culture – a key tenet of who they are.
Cole & Parker is another great example of a business with a conscious culture that is visible across the board, from programming, to marketing, to craftsmanship. The company’s socks are unique and high quality enough that they could have easily been successful on that premise alone—but the founders chose to do it differently. They wanted their socks to help others build businesses, so they partnered with Kiva to develop a 1 for many business model: for each customer purchase, Cole & Parker provided a loan to support entrepreneurs around the world. Many customers are more familiar with companies like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker, in which the companies provide shoes and glasses, respectively, to those in need for every purchase that is made. But this model has proven to be problematic, taking business away from local business owners and failing to address the specific needs of those communities. Cole & Parker wanted to do it differently. They wanted to build a more sustainable impact model, and came up with an innovative solution that stays true to their company values.
Do you know of another business like Quicken Loans and Everlane that has really folded social impact into their company culture, or a social enterprise like Cole & Parker that is doing impact differently? We’d love to connect with them to share their stories on the blog! Tell us about them by:
- Sending us an email
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- Connecting on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn)