I refer to this topic as “lead-in” not meaning to demean its importance or relevance to the discussion. It is not a part of gather information or formulating strategic alternatives. It is tied to the Mission Statement as an expression of what your entity wants to do for the whole around it. When I mention this column to some students or some groups, they look at me as if I were speaking a different language!
One of the (many) great things about the natural products industry is that we are a people of passion – a people who are and have been working to change the world! When one looks at the changes in how organic foods, dietary supplements, green products, etc. are all viewed today and contrast that with how those things were looked at 15 or 20 years ago, you’d have to revise my earlier statement and say that we are people who ARE changing the world!
Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) is the idea that business has a duty to serve society in general as well as the financial interests of stockholders. While this concept is foreign to many, it is part of the fabric of our industry!
Many in our society get on a bandwagon for the good PR that doing so will generate. This is illustrated very well in a recent Brand Camp cartoon by Tom Fishburne - tinyurl.com/djc9xy. (Tom does very insightful and humorous weekly cartoons about the subject of marketing and selling in our modern world. If you enjoy this one, check out his website. You might enjoy his weekly updates – www.tomfishburne.com.)
Adopting a cause only as a Marketing or PR strategy is pretty shallow. While the cause may enjoy and put to good use any funds that you contribute, you are using the “platform of visibility” that your business has created for far less than what it could be.
There are so many great positive causes embraced by folks in our world that I had to limit those to refer to here to two:
One of the best examples that I’ve seen of this was found in a July, 2006 article about Choice Tea from the Seattle Times. The story is about how they chose to spend a LOT Of extra money on a machine that ties, rather than staples, tea bags. It also mentions their commitment to Fair Trade and renewable energy. Part of their motivation is found in keeping 400 miles (yes, miles!) of staple wire per year from going into landfills. It is a part of living their commitment to the environment. You can find the whole article at - tinyurl.com/dloo4w .
Another great example is our so many in our industry have embraced Vitamin Angels! This outstanding group of people provides vitamins and nutrition education to children in the third world. A partial (but quite long) listing of companies that sponsor their good work is found here - www.vitaminangels.org/menu/media/promotions.htm
In these cases – and many, many others – the CSR that is practiced here is not a separate issue from the day to day running of a business, it is part and parcel of it. It is not something that is done at the end of the day if there are surplus funds – or as a photo op – it is tied fully to providing quality products, taking good care of employees, having ethical relationships with suppliers and other ingrained parts of day to day corporate life.
As you formulate or refine your company mission, be sure to have the CSR activities that are vital to you included in it!
We'll have our next part of this series posted around the first of April!