Monday, November 14, 2011

Make Money by Doing Good

Companies like Toms, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Seventh Generation were “born” with good genes for corporate social responsibility. Each company was founded with a mission that included responsibility to the environment and community. From inception Toms operated on the “One for One Model,” for every pair of shoes purchased the company would donate one pair to a child in need. While the financials are not public it is clear by the number of pairs of Tom’s shoes I have seen, that this has been a successful business model. They have now evolved the program into eyewear. With every pair of sunglasses purchased, Toms will help give sight to a person in need.

But what if your company was not created with sustainable standards? Have no fear, companies such as Wal-Mart and Office Max prove that you can go beyond charitable giving and create a business model that positively impacts the community and your company’s bottom line. Social issues have real economic value. With the introduction of Wal-Mart’s $4 prescription program, a business strategy, the company attracted new customers, increased store traffic and generated sales.  Meanwhile, the program greatly benefitted America’s large populations of uninsured persons and Medicare recipients. Another great example is Office Max’s “A Day Made Better” annual one-day event that awards more than 1,000 educators with more than $1,000 each in school supplies. In a declining market this office supply retailer needed to develop a mission that would engage people (customers and employees) and drive business.  Since 2007, “A Day Made Better” has contributed more than $4 million worth of products to teachers in need and the company has received endless PR for the success of the campaign.

Even if you are not a massive retailer like Wal-Mart or Office Max, you can develop a profitable corporate engagement strategy that can allow you to do good and create economic return. First, determine the problem that you are trying to solve. Some questions to ask yourself: what is the problem you are trying to solve? Who is the audience you want to reach? What is success and how will it be measured? Once you answer those questions determine how you can leverage your core competencies for social good. Make sure that this strategy is integrated into your company’s brand promise. The results? Positive impact on the community, increased customer loyalty, renewed employee engagement, and positive impact on your company’s bottom line. 

Amanda Salhoot
M.S. Candidate 2011 | Integrated Marketing Communications
Twitter: @asalhoot

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