How to Use CSR to Drive Sales?
Have you run out of ideas on how to stand out from the marketing crowd? Are you tired of launching yet another marketing campaign that fails to bring the expected results? And at last, something completely different, do you believe that by doing good you attract goodness as well?
In this article, you will learn what exactly is and how to use Corporate Social Responsibility to your advantage. You will also:
- Learn about the benefits and risks of using CSR in your sales and marketing strategies.
- Learn about top market players who use CSR – Ikea and Ben&Jerry.
- Get some ideas on how to start with Corporate Social Responsibility by implementing it in your marketing strategy first.
There’s a lot to uncover here, so we’d better get started.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and is it worth investing in?
CRS is a model of running business which apart from tending to shareholders’ needs and increasing revenue, also pays attention to the interests of stakeholders, communities and environment. To put is simply, if a company is characterised by high levels of CSR, there is a big chance that it is socially and ideologically active (e.g. supporting LGBTQ+ movement or Wildlife Conservation), accepts responsibility for detrimental effects of its business’ operations and aims at improving working conditions for all of its employees, including subcontractors.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately CRS is not as rosy as it may seem at first glance. The conflict starts at the very purpose of having a company. Older economists would most likely say that the purpose of running a business is to generate income and that’s it. Milton Friedman, an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, was one of the fiercest critics of CSR model calling it “socialism” and any business that would implement CRS were “unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.”* That’s a pretty harsh criticism if you ask me.
However, more modern economists claim that corporations are a part of a society and operate within communities therefore they should not be exempt from social responsibility for their actions.
Other objections concern:
- ideological subjectivity of management,
- lack of experience in running charity campaigns by companies,
- CRS can be used as a smokescreen for companies which behind the scenes run socially and environmentally detrimental operations.
Things have gotten a little dark now, so why don’t we take a look at CRS from a different angle?
Proponents of CRS claim that, to put it simply, companies should be responsible for the mess they’ve made. But CRS is not only about looking for the guilty party and bringing corporations to justice. Its advocates claim that CRS can bring many benefits to the company, such as:
- bigger attractiveness of the company for young employees,
- good reputation,
- increase in revenue,
- social trust.
In order to answer the question asked at the beginning of this article, we are going to analyse IKEA’s stance on CRS and see if activity in this field directly translates to improved financial performance and other benefits.
IKEA’s take on sustainability and profitability – The Giant of Corporate Social Responsibility
When talking about CSR we have to mention IKEA. The company has been a part of many social initiatives and for many is considered a leader in terms of CSR efforts.
Its initiatives, such as supporting artisans from developing countries, IWAY (regulations regarding suppliers’ code of conduct on the environment, child labour, social and working conditions), taking part in renewable energy projects, being a part of the Forest Stewardship Council and the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil make IKEA the titan of CSR and home decor industry. You can learn more about IKEA Sustainability plans here.
What about promoting certain world views via CSR besides sustainability? How does it impact sales?
Recently, IKEA made headlines in Poland when during Pride Month the company released rainbow shopping bags (all revenue was donated to Human Rights Watch) and special announcements which encouraged tolerance among its employees.
A scandal broke out when one of IKEA’s employees criticized company for promoting LGBTQ+ movement for which eventually he got fired. The employee justified his actions saying that he could no longer stand the ideological indoctrination that has been taking place in IKEA for years.
As a result, a discussion on what are the limitations of ideologically-infused marketing has erupted. As of today there are no clear answers and unsurprisingly left-leaning groups praised IKEA’s hard stance on homophobia and right-leaning groups condemned IKEA’s actions.
While taking about rainbow marketing it is important to mention Ben&Jerry, an ice cream producer, which for some time has been openly promoting LGBTQ+ movement and homosexual marriages via its CSR efforts. By taking a stance, the company exposed itself to an avalanche of both positive and negative comments. This publicity at the end is beneficial for the company yet of course Ben&Jerry is going to lose some customers along the way.
But the conclusion is simple: with the market full to the brim with products and services, customers are looking for something extra. That’s why by taking a stance we increase our chances of gaining publicity and customers’ approval.
What can we learn from ideology-infused CSR and how it translates to more sales?
IKEA’s involvement in issues directly related to the environment, sustainability and ideology has not been found to be explicitly negative or positive for financial performance*. Similar conclusions can be drawn from other research which indicates that there is no conclusive evidence on the connection between CSR and revenue in general and across industries.
But there are certainly other benefits that stem from IKEA’s CSR, such as positive media coverage, social trust and bigger attractiveness for up-and-coming designers.
It is not easy to stay on the top in the furnishing industry without slick, clever and high-quality designs. And who designs most of IKEA’s products? Millennials.
Young working professionals look for something more than a big paycheck - job satisfaction and a company that operates in alignment with their morals is equally valuable.
In order to boost their long-term recruiting strategy, IKEA invested in Kamprad Family Foundation (KFF) aimed at strengthening Småland, the mother province of IKEA. This cooperation boosted not only the recruitment but also retention rates because IKEA managed to bolster employee pride and loyalty.
In short what IKEA is doing is obtaining young talents from the community it nurtures.
Corporate Social Responsibility– boosting profits by speaking up
We’re sorry but it’s an impossible question to answer and it really depends. Involvement in CSR requires effort, finances, position and CSR-guided companies run the risk of losing focus and missing on the chance to make profit for the company and ultimately lose money. A lot of research suggests that only if a company is big enough and has plenty of resources to spare it is not going to waste money, energy and time on pursuing CSR initiatives. And not all companies have this privilege.
On the other hand, CSR has been found to bolster social trust, media coverage and overall brand attractiveness. Also, when it comes to customers, research has shown that CSR can be beneficial for customer acquisition and retention rates only if it goes side by side innovativeness. To put it simply, companies that focus solely on CSR and neglect innovations, don’t perform well in this model.
Corporate Social Responsibility – ideas on how to get started
If you are interested in engaging more in CSR-related initiatives but have no idea on how to go about it, you can use Voucherify as a tool to promote certain world views and sustainability.
I can imagine you thinking to yourself: “How are discount coupons and promo campaigns related to CSR?” and I am quick to answer - by creating campaigns and discounts you may encourage your audience to act in a certain way thus promoting certain behaviors.
Let me give you some examples to get your juices flowing:
- You may run discount campaigns for blood donors to promote donating blood and other similar medical programs.
- You may offer special discounts for customers who purchased more sustainable products, such as 5% off for buying a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one to cultivate the spirit of sustainability in your customers.
- You may launch a loyalty program in which customers are rewarded with special gift cards via which they may support different charity initiatives. In fact, we recreated similar program here.
- You may reward your customers with discounts for signing various petitions.
- You may offer birthday discounts on organic products.
- Create amazing landing pages to invite your customers to your charity loyalty program.
- And many more.
As you can see promo campaigns and discounts could be a great way to follow CSR business model and Voucherify lets you launch such campaigns in an effortless and affordable manner.
Can’t wait to launch your first CSR-based campaign?