Reward Program Strategy

Top 10 Examples of Social Responsibility as a Customer Retention Tool


Did you know that social responsibility is a huge priority for your customers? 91% of customers claim that brand behavior influences their purchase decisions, but what does that look like? What is social responsibility exactly, and how can it be used to keep customers coming back to your store?

Investopedia defines “social responsibility” in the following way:

"Social responsibility is the idea that businesses should balance profit-making activities with activities that benefit society. Social responsibility means that individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interests of their environments and society as a whole.”

With this definition in mind, it’s clear that social responsibility should impact every decision a business makes. From the way products are created, distributed, and sold, to the opportunities a business provides to its employees and community, social responsibility suggests that businesses are obligated to make decisions that benefit society as a whole.

To put this concept into perspective, we’re going to take a look at 10 of the best socially responsible initiatives we’ve seen from brands that keep their customers coming back for more.

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1. H&M Conscious

“It has always been important for us to act in a way that makes it possible (...) for future generations to enjoy fashion.”
Karl-Johan Persson, H&M CEO

H&M is one the greatest examples of social responsibility at work in the fashion industry. With an independent site dedicated to showcasing the company's’ sustainable practices, customers have access to sustainability reports, supplier details, and more.

H&M Conscious Display

Not only is H&M highly transparent about the way their products are made and how they’re planning for a more sustainable future, the brand has also launched a series of recycling initiatives that invite customers to get involved. Their line H&M Conscious, is built around products made entirely from recycled fabrics and organic cotton.

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In addition to their commitment toward environmentally friendly products, H&M also launched a garment collecting initiative to “close the fashion loop”.  Customers are encouraged to bring any unwanted clothes to an H&M store in exchange for 15% off their next purchase. Since the program launched in 2013, the company has collected over 40,000 tonnes of used clothing  clothing that may have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

H&M Logo Icon
H&M uses social responsibility as a customer retention tool by selling eco-friendly products that customers can feel good about. They also incentivize future purchases by offering discounts to those who recycle used garments in store.

2. EB Games

“We concentrate on reducing our impact to the environment. GameStop has a very unique and robust refurbishment and recycling program that results in significant amounts of e-waste being kept out of landfills.”

Not only does EB Games run the fantastic Edge Rewards program, but the gaming expert also heavily emphasizes the importance of recycling used products in store. EB Games allows customers to trade old games and systems in exchange for credit that may be applied to the purchase of new games, consoles, and more.

EB Games Recycled Offers

To take this program to the next level, EB Games created a “Recycled” tab on their website. This page is frequently updated to feature the latest and greatest trade deals, some of which include 3 used games in exchange for a new game at no cost, one used game for a free Platinum rewards card, and more! 

EB Games Logo Icon
EB Games provides customers with attractive offers in exchange for used games, consoles, and gear as a way of turning sustainability into a customer retention strategy.

3. ivory ella

“Seeing this outcry (to save the elephants), we wanted to give the world something they would not only want to wear, but something that also stood for positive change and making the world a better place.”
John Allen, ivory ella CEO 

ivory ella has one mission: to save the elephants. According to Defenders of Wildlife, there are less than 800,000 elephants alive in the world, a number that continues to decline each year. ivory ella was launched with this reality in mind, and as a result donates 10% of their net profits on clothing and jewelry sales to the Save the Elephants foundation.

Ivory Ella Donations

This brand is one of many for-profit companies that have a business model centered on social responsibility. CEO John Allen recognized that consumer preferences were shifting, and that “run of the mill t-shirt” purchases weren’t cutting it anymore. With a clear focus on something more than simply selling more clothes, ivory ella customers can trust that their clothing and jewelry purchases are more than investments into their wardrobe — they are investments into the greater good on a global scale.

ivory ella logo icon
With each purchase, ivory ella customers receive the products they love while also contributing to various charitable organizations. 

4. Good Vibes

“We are committed to being environmentally conscious. One reason why we bottle our juice in reusable glass bottles is to reduce our eco-footprint.”
Good Vibes

Good Vibes Juice Co is a prime example of how social sustainability can be tied into customer loyalty initiatives. To reduce their eco footprint, Good Vibes launched a loyalty program that allows customers to return glass bottles in exchange for points. With each bottle returned, customers are closer to receiving discounts on future purchases, and after 10 bottles, they’re set up to redeem a $5 discount!

Good Vibes Juice Company

While Good Vibes does offer customers the option to return their bottles to store locations, they encourage customers to get creative, too! Whether the glass bottle becomes a customer’s newest vase or a yoga class essential, Good Vibes often rewards creativity on Instagram by giving customers who share great photos a chance to win more free juice.  In these ways, the cold-pressed juice company encourages a healthy environment and  a healthy lifestyle.

Good Vibes Logo Icon
Good Vibes Juice Co’s instore recycling program encourages repeat purchases with rewards. This retention tool, combined with additional rewards for creativity on social media, develops brand loyalty and puts sustainability at the front of their brand.


“The best way of achieving a sustainable future is by moving forwards, not backwards.”
Steve Howard, IKEA Group CSO

IKEA is one of the most recognized companies in the world when it comes to social sustainability so much so that the company was ranked 2nd in Europe’s 2017 most Sustainable Brands Index. IKEA is always looking for better, socially responsible ways to create, sell, and recycle their products, and the company has committed to a variety of environmental and social initiatives in the hopes of a better future for all.



Two noteworthy initiatives include IKEA’s switch to a lighting range comprised entirely of energy-efficient LEDs and the IKEA recycling program. With these campaigns, customers are educated on the benefits of switching to LED bulbs and encouraged to return unwanted furniture and home goods that may otherwise end up in landfills.  From cardboard to couches and everything in between, customers can return products in store to be recycled at no extra charge.  They’ll even do home pickup (for a small fee, of course)!

IKEA Logo Icon
IKEA uses social responsibility to retain their customers by offering affordable, energy-efficient products customers can’t find anywhere else. Customers can also take advantage of IKEA’s recycling program that disposes of used products on the customer’s behalf.

6. The Giving Keys

“It’s our responsibility as humans to take care of each other.”
Caitlin Crosby, The Giving Keys Founder

The Giving Keys is a social enterprise dedicated to paying it forward. Selling recycled key necklaces with inspirational messages like “dream” and “inspire”, The Giving Keys employs individuals struggling with homelessness to break generational cycles of poverty.

The Giving Keys Website

Beyond their commitment to ethical HR practices, The Giving Key’s products are also intended to create a positive social impact.  When a customer meets someone they believe needs the message written on the key, they are encouraged to pass it on and share their story. To this day, the Giving Keys has employed over 70 individuals transitioning out of homelessness, and and has impacted countless lives through their pay it forward model.

The Giving Keys Logo Icon
By empowering their customers to actively participate in the fight against homelessness, The Giving Keys uses social responsibility as a way of building positive feelings that bring customers back for another key and another story.

7. Carrot Rewards

“(Carrot Rewards) features such as the loyalty program, personal goal tracking and the quizzes aim to make leading a healthier life easier and show that improving your health can be fun, too.”
Andreas Souvaliotis, CARROT Insights CEO

While Carrot Rewards may not be your conventional example of a social responsibility tool, this government-funded iOS and Android application is encouraging thousands of Canadians to live healthier lifestyles. By downloading the app, users are able to pick from a selection of popular rewards programs including SCENE, Petro-Points, Aeroplan Miles, and more. Once their rewards information has been synced with the app, Carrot users can start earning points for completing personalized health and fitness goals. These include unique goals for the number of steps taken throughout the day, and the completion of targeted quizzes that measure understanding of important health trends and topics.

Carrot Rewards App

For each goal and quiz completed, points are automatically credited to the program each customer registered with. For myself, the completion of my daily step goal results in 28 additional SCENE points by the end of each week!

Through Carrot Rewards, members have the capability of earning points that may be redeemed at hundreds of retail locations with no purchase required. In addition to the cost-savings users receive through points, Carrot Rewards is also contributing to a healthier nation that understands the importance of well-being!

Carrot Rewards Logo Icon
Carrot Rewards turns social responsibility into a customer retention tool by offering users loyalty points for achieving each of their health goals. With more opportunities to earn, customers will be more likely to redeem with their favorite brands!


“Exercise your purchasing power as a consumer, volunteer and bring joy to those in need, and share your experiences, tell your stories, and inspire others along the way.”
Blake Mycoskie, TOMS CEO

TOMS is the world’s first (and most famous) example of how the “one for one” business model can benefit consumers and society as a whole. For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS commits to donating a pair of shoes to an individual in need overseas. The success of this business model led TOMS to apply the “one for one” model to a variety of their products, including eyeglasses, coffee beans, bags, and backpacks.

TOMS One for One Website

Today, TOMS is donating a portion of purchases to a variety of social initiatives, including sight-saving surgeries, water systems in third-world countries, vital training and materials for women giving birth, and the training of school staff to fight against bullying.

With over 100 giving partners, the TOMS model has made an incredible impact on the ways brands approach social responsibility all over the world.

TOMS Logo Icon
By creating opportunities for customers to have a direct impact on the lives of others, TOMS empowers their customers to change someone’s life by completing a purchase. This results in positive emotions with every purchase, encouraging customers to buy more in the future.

9. Levi’s Water < Less

“Our push to curb water use across our operations has — so far — saved more than one billion liters of water globally since 2011. It’s also given us the credibility to challenge our customers to embrace more sustainable practices.”
Charles V. Bergh, Levi's CEO

Did you know that around 95% of the water used by Americans goes down the drain? In contrast, many individuals in third-world countries use less than 3 gallons of water per day  the amount we use in a single flush of the toilet. Levi’s knows that every drop of water counts, and as a result they launched their Water<Less campaign in the hopes of paving a way toward a more sustainable use of water worldwide.

Water<Less is a line of products that uses 96% less water than traditional denim finishes.Since making the switch, the company has saved over 1.8 billion litres of water.

Levi's Water Less

By 2020, Levi’s has committed to ensure that 80% of all their products are created as Water<Less innovations, and they want their customers to be a big part of that. In order to empower shoppers to conserve more water in their day-to-day lives, Levi’s has gone so far as to share tips on their website.  Whether it’s taking a shower instead of a bath or letting the rain wash their car, Levi’s wants their customers to be involved in creating a more sustainable future.

Levi's Logo Icon
Levi’s offers their customers products they can trust were made sustainably. In the mission to conserve water, Levi’s encourages customers to participate by purchasing their products and listening to their recommendations for a Water<Less world.

10. Starbucks

“Business leaders cannot be bystanders.”
Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO

As the largest coffeehouse chain in the world, it’s no surprise that all eyes are on Starbucks when it comes to socially responsible initiatives. As a result, Starbucks is well-known for their commitment to ethically sourced materials. In addition to ethically sourced tea and cocoa, the brand purchases coffee that has been responsibly grown and has committed to supporting the farmers that make their sales a reality.

Starbucks C.A.F.E Practices

Starbucks relies on C.A.F.E (Coffee and Farmer Equity) practices to ensure the integrity of their materials is verified. These practices evaluate coffee production against economic, social, and environmental criteria that must be met before it’s purchased. According to Starbucks, these practices have benefitted more than one million workers employed by participating farms. With these initiatives in mind, Starbucks premium coffee is worth the price!

Starbucks Logo Icon
Starbucks uses social responsibility to make a small, everyday purchase represent something more. Customers can trust that their coffee is contributing to thousands of jobs for farmers, putting food on their tables and stimulating global economies.

One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind

While these brands are doing big things to make the world a better place, it only takes one small step to start a chain reaction! A study from Nielsen revealed that 66% of customers are willing to pay more for products and services from brands that demonstrate a commitment to social and environmental initiatives. Clearly, social responsibility is a highly effective customer retention tool, and the brands we discussed here are setting the stage for the future of business practices.

Now it’s your turn. What will your business do today to create a brighter future for all?

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