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:
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.
1. H&M Conscious
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.
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.
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.
2. EB Games
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.
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!
3. ivory ella
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.
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.
4. 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!
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.
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)!
6. The Giving Keys
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.
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.
7. Carrot Rewards
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.
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!
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.
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.
9. Levi’s Water < Less
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.
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.
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 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!
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?