By Kristen Klingensmith

Social responsibility, also known as corporate social responsibility (CSR) for larger companies, used to be a poison term. In 1970, famed economist and Nobel winner Milton Friedman went so far as to call it a “suicidal impulse” for businesses to dedicate practices to social and environmental responsibility. At the time, corporate America was at best politely skeptical of the concept, and at worse, openly contemptuous.

However, times have changed.

Several surveys of consumers conducted in recent years have uncovered a rising tide of consumers who are disillusioned with typical corporate America. Instead of admiring efforts to increase the bottom line, Millennials and today’s shoppers are more interested in companies that treat their employees, their communities and the environment well. In fact, a 2014 survey of online shoppers revealed that more than half of consumers are willing to spend more for a product if the company behind it is socially and environmentally responsible.

Corporate Social Responsibility in Action

Several major companies have forged a solid reputation off their corporate social responsibility campaigns. Starbucks, for example, seeks to be at the forefront of CSR, with multiple elements like ethical sourcing, environmental responsibility, community involvement and volunteerism. Starbucks also treats its employees incredibly well with 401ks, great benefits and even educational opportunities. Starbucks success in this field can be said to have set the bar for social responsibility amongst its competitors.

In response to the overwhelming success, rising stock prices and intense customer loyalty Starbucks’ stance has inspired, everyone from Dunkin Donuts to McDonalds have expanded their own CSR divisions in the hopes of capturing the same zeal.

Communicating Your Values

If anything can be learned from major companies in the world, it’s that starting the conversation about causes and social responsibility on social media majorly benefits business image. For example, hospitality titan Hilton Worldwide just celebrated SME Day (Small and Medium Enterprise Day) by plugging it’s 2030 supply chain investment on social media outlets.

Communicating this important cause lets shareholders and clients of the hotel company know they are not only investing in hotel rooms and travel arrangements, but investment in small and community-owned businesses, ethical sourcing and attention to human rights in sourcing.

This transparency can work for your business, too! Whether your focus is sustainability or eco-friendly practices, you can use your social media to communicate your values and participate in a conversation with your followers. By making your values openly known, you will share valuable information with shareholders, current clients and future clients who share interest in the same causes.

Starting Your Own Conversation

If you’re interested in committing to your own social responsibility campaign and want to start the conversation, here are some easy ways to do it. In no time, your values will be clear to consumers and your business will begin to affect real change — not only in your community and the environment, but in your following as well!

  • Create a section on your web page for social responsibility. You can title this whatever you want, but it should convey to browsers that this is the place to find the causes you care about. Missions and promises to consumers also should go here.
  • Make a point to post employee celebrations, awards and appreciations on your social media. Not only does this make your employees feel valued, it tells the world that you care about your employees growth and commitment.
  • Publicly post your corporate responsibility promise, and keep to it. Your followers should be kept apprised of your progress towards your cause, such as switching supply chains to community businesses or beginning composting procedures in your kitchen. Watching your progress will make your shareholders, customers and the media will make them feel they’re part of the journey!
  • Make your employees your biggest champions. A powerful motivator for improving business image and amping up the benefit of social responsibility is a satisfied employee! Including your employees in the process and key decisions will make them proud of their involvement. They’ll champion your cause to friends, families and consumers, driving more positive attention to your business.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, but aren’t sure where to start take a look at some of your favorite brands. You’ll find inspiration in realms from protecting marine life, ending pollution, or human rights!