The New Yorker article about how Patagonia’s sales are growing in double-digits with a seemingly “don’t buy this” campaign caught our attention. They’re doing things differently, putting ecology and the environment before numbers, and by doing so, they’re engaging with their workforce and customers in a more meaningful way.
Ideas that were once considered fringe are now part of our global consciousness. “Corporate-social-responsibility theorists say that successful activist companies go through a “sense making” process that renders their efforts meaningful both within the corporation and among its customers.” (J.B. Mackinnon, Patagonia’s Anti-Growth Strategy, newyorker.com) For this campaign to work, it had to make sense internally. The entire company shifted from growth-focused to conservation-focused, education-focused, and by doing so has hit a chord with its employees and customers. And it’s succeeding.
Think of the buzz France’s legislation to make it illegal for supermarkets to destroy edible food has received. A country, in essence, is a gigantic corporation. The French have trumped the world with their new laws that require supermarkets to donate food they once threw out to charity, to allow it to be turned into animal food or compost. There’s a meme that, in the last few weeks, has gotten over millions of shares.
People care. Employees care and want to be part of global efforts to affect change. Improving employee engagement and attracting new hires with a solid corporate social responsibility program is not a passing fad. In fact, corporate social responsibility “has quickly become a crucial part of any large company’s long-term strategy – not just in marketing but in recruiting, too.” (Jeanne Meister, Corporate Social Responsibility: A Lever For Employee Attraction and Engagement, Forbes.com)
This shift comes with a new generation of workers who say that making a difference is essential to their happiness. This new generation of talent searches out companies with the best reputations for their CSR programs: Google (with Google Giving), IBM (Corporate Service Corps) , BMW, Daimler and Volvo (all respected for their efforts to make efficient, eco-friendlier cars), and more. Being part of an organization that makes a difference is making a difference to new hires as well as retaining some of an organization’s best employees. And businesses are responding to this new demand. According to UC Berkeley business professor Kellie A. McElhaney, corporate responsibility is “just good business.” Her book Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand cites that 68% of business leaders worldwide are focusing on corporate responsibility.
But an organization doesn’t need to be a giant to make a difference. In the next couple of posts, we’re going to address CSR programs, how to implement them and create a lasting difference in a company’s reputation, branding, recruitment of new talent, retention of great employees all while making our communities, and world, a better place to live.