Nov 10, 2022

16 Brands Doing Corporate Social Responsibility Successfully

by Digital Marketing Institute

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) allows businesses large and small to enact positive change. It’s when companies choose to do what’s right not only for their bottom line but also to build customer trust. 

Consumers feel that when they use a product or service of a socially responsible company, they are doing their part. The more socially responsible the company, the more supportive their community and consumers become.

Corporate social responsibility helps gain customer trust by caring about issues such as Earth Day, raises awareness, and encourages social change. Although there are thousands of companies doing their part, the efforts of large global corporations have far-reaching results that can impact global issues, from hunger and health to global warming and climate change. 

Keep reading to see examples of how some major brands are doing CSR successfully (along with one brand that re-evaluated its CSR strategy after facing criticism for having the wrong social impact). 

Free Guide: How To Promote Your CSR Activities

Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility in Action

Corporate social responsibility comes in many forms. Even the smallest company can impact social change by making a simple donation to a local food bank. Some of the most common examples of CSR include:

  • Reducing carbon footprints
  • Improving labor policies
  • Participating in fairtrade
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Charitable global giving
  • Community and virtual volunteering
  • Corporate policies that benefit the environment
  • Socially and environmentally conscious investments

Millennials Want to See More Corporate Social Responsibility

To millennials and Generation Z, socially responsible companies are even more important. They believe companies should invest in improving society and look for solutions that assist in those improvements.

Companies should share how they are trying to make a positive impact on the world, so the public can see their pro-social initiatives. Showcasing efforts is key so it’s important to learn how to market to millennials because these efforts will sway the choices they make as consumers.

Millennials also like to take part in initiatives such as volunteer work or making donations. As ever more companies begin to see the impact their socially and environmentally conscious efforts have on a consumer’s perception, the more chance there is that they will begin initiatives of their own.

Changing Corporate Social Responsibility Trends

Activism by millennials and, indeed, all generations will also influence changing trends in CSR. You can expect to see companies continue to take a public stand against on-the-job harassment and discrimination thanks to the #metoo movement. Diversity in the workplace will also continue to expand to embrace people of all races, genders, cultures, disabilities, and sexual orientations.

Diversity in the workplace will also continue to expand to embrace people of all races, genders, cultures, disabilities, and sexual orientations. Many brands are becoming more vocal and showing their support for important social issues on social media to great effect.

Companies will also find their own voices to speak out against social injustice and policy changes that will negatively impact the environment. Even policies to protect data privacy in an ever changing environment can become part of the CSR trends as more and more data breaches threaten personal information.

In September 2022, Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard set a new standard in environmental corporate leadership by giving away the company and its future profits to fight climate change. 

“If we have any hope of a thriving planet – much less a thriving business – 50 years from now, it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have,” said Chouinard. “This is another way we’ve found to do our part.”

Brands Doing it Right

1.  Renewable Innovation: Johnson & Johnson

Map of Johnson & Johnson renewables footprint
Map of Johnson & Johnson renewables footprint

An excellent example of CSR on the frontline is big pharma pioneer Johnson & Johnson. They have focused on reducing their impact on the planet for three decades. Their initiatives range from leveraging the power of the wind to providing safe water to communities around the world. Their purchase of a privately-owned energy supplier in the Texas Panhandle allowed the company to reduce pollution while providing a renewable, economical alternative to electricity. The company continues to seek out renewable energy options with the goal of having 100% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.

2. Social issues: Google

Google is trusted not only for its environmentally friendly initiatives but also due to  its outspoken CEO, Sundar Pichai. He stands up against social issues including President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim comments. Google also earned the Reputation Institute’s highest CSR 2018 score much in part due to their data centers using 50% less energy than others in the world. They also have committed over $1 billion to renewable energy projects and enable other businesses to reduce their environmental impact through services such as Gmail.

3. Sustainability: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola plant based bottle
Coca-Cola plant based bottle

As a brand, Coca-Cola is putting a huge focus on sustainability. The key areas are climate, packaging and agriculture along with water stewardship and product quality. Their message is ‘a world without waste’, with the aim of collecting and recycling every bottle, making their packaging 100% recyclable and replacing all water used in creating their drinks back to the environment to ensure water security. They aim that by 2030, they will have reduced their carbon footprint by 25%.

In 2021, Coca-Cola unveiled its first-ever beverage bottle made from 100% plant-based plastic. “Our goal is to develop sustainable solutions for the entire industry, We want other companies to join us and move forward, collectively. We don’t see renewable or recycled content as areas where we want competitive advantage,” said Dana Breed, Global R&D Director, Packaging and Sustainability, The Coca-Cola Company. 

4. Carbon neutral & pay equity: Ford Motor Company

Ford has huge plans in the area of CSR. Their mission is to ‘build a better world, where everyone is free to move and pursue their dreams’. They have increased investment in electrification to $22Bn (from an original $11Bn) and aim for their vehicles to be carbon neutral by 2050.  

“We’re committed to carbon neutrality”, stated Bob Holycross, Ford’s VP, Chief Sustainability, Environment & Safety Officer. “It’s the right thing for our customers, the planet and Ford. Ninety-five percent of our carbon emissions today come from our vehicles, operations and suppliers, and we’re tackling all three areas with urgency and optimism,”

Interestingly, the company is also focusing on pay equity. They are conducting a diversity, equity and inclusion audit while introducing a global salaried pay ratio (including gender) to level the playing field for all employees.

5 & 6. Employee rights: Netflix & Spotify

From a social perspective, companies such as Netflix and Spotify offer benefits to support their employees and families.

Netflix offers 52 weeks of paid parental leave to the birth parent and non-birth parent (which includes adopted children). This can be taken at any time whether it is the first year of the child's life or another time that suits their needs. This compares to a median of 18 weeks at other major tech companies.

Spotify offers a similar program, although for a shorter duration of 24 weeks of paid leave. The company believes the launch of this initiative resulted in a spike in external job applications which has never abated. 

When it comes to social causes, Netflix and Spotify use their social media platforms to show support for movements such as Pride month, environmental sustainability, and Black Lives Matter. Netflix sets an example on how to target -and appeal to - niche and minority audiences through clever social media.

7. Access to healthcare: Pfizer

When disaster strikes, emergency assistance in healthcare is crucial. To aid in these circumstances, Pfizer has a three-pronged approach; product donations, grants and solutions to access.  

Grants have been provided to countries such as Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew and the global refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. This money is provided in cooperation with NGOs to reach as many people as possible.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, through its Global Medical Grants program, Pfizer provided $5 million to help improve the recognition, diagnosis, treatment and management of patients. In addition, grants were made available to clinics, medical centers and hospitals to improve the management and outcome of COVID-19 patients.

In 2022, Pfizer was named one of the most ethical companies in the world by Ethisphere

8. Philanthropic Donations: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo donates up to 1.5% of its revenue to charitable causes each year to more than 14,500 nonprofits through philanthropy such as food banks and incubators (plant science and renewable energy) to hasten the speed to market for start-ups.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company donated $6.25 million to support a domestic and global response. This includes $1 million for the CDC Foundation, $250,000 to the International Medical Corps across 30 countries, and $5 million for efforts at a local level to address community needs. 

9. Grassroots campaigns: TOMS

TOMS's mission is to donate a pair of shoes for every pair they sell and this has resulted in the donation of over 100 million pairs of shoes to children in need. These profits have been used to assist the visually impaired by providing prescription glasses and medical treatments, providing 'safe' drinking water and building businesses in developing countries to create jobs.

Since the company came under criticism from NGOs for creating a dependency on free shoes and collapsing local shoe-making industries, TOMS has re-evaluated its strategy. Instead of focusing on free shoes, the company now donates one-third of its profits to grassroots campaigns. This includes the COVID-19 Giving Fund and racial justice campaigns such as Black Lives Matter.

We learned that giving shoes, sight, and safe water for over a decade was an amazing start— the right start — to creating meaningful change. But, the decision to give impact grants instead will enable our community to do even more. Rather than giving shoes, we’re giving 1⁄3 of our profits. In other words, $1 for every $3 we make, which is about as much as a company can give while still keeping the lights on.” - TOMS Impact Report 2019-2020.

10. Climate neutral:  Bosch

Bosch set itself ambitious goals for protecting the environment, with an aim to reduce their ecological footprint through climate action, water usage, and a circular economy.

It seems this ambition has paid off and paved the way for other global companies, as 400 of its locations are now climate neutral. The company now wants to reduce upstream (purchased goods and services) and downstream (product use) emissions by 15% in 2030.  

“Having achieved our initial targets for scopes 1 and 2, we are now tackling scope 3 emissions with the same degree of rigor – setting specific targets and milestones for the coming years.” - Torsten Kallweit, Head of EHS AND Sustainability

​​​​​​​11. Clean technology: GE

It's been over a decade since General Electric launched Ecomagination, its renewable business strategy with a mission to double down on clean technology and generate $20 billion in revenue from green products.

As part of its ‘Ecomagination Challenge’ launched last year, GE awarded five people $100,000 each to develop their innovations such as an inflatable wind turbine, an intelligent water meter, a cyber secure network infrastructure, and short-circuiting and outage technology.   

12. Workplace diversity & inclusion: Starbucks

Starbucks diversity hires
Starbucks diversity hires

With an eye to hiring, Starbucks wanted to diversify its workforce and provide opportunities for specific cohorts. It has pledged to hire 25,000 US military veterans and spouses by 2025 as part of its socially responsible efforts. Ahead of schedule, the company reached this milestone six years early and now hires 5,000 veterans and military spouses every year.

To tackle racial and social equity, Starbucks announced a mentorship program to connect black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to senior leaders and invest in partnerships. The chain also aims to have BIPOC represented at 30% in corporate roles and 40% in retail and manufacturing by 2025.    

Read: ‘Digital Accessibility: What Marketers Need to Know’ to find out how you can make your marketing activities more accessible. 

13.  Sustainability:  New Belgium Brewing Company 

This brewing company owned entirely by its employees through a stock ownership plan is focused on sustainability. Its Fort Collins, Colorado brewery produces its electricity through solar panels and wastewater and aims to have all its beer carbon neutral by 2030. It also gives away $1 of every barrel sold to support their philanthropic initiatives, values and goals. According to the Director of CSR, Katie Wallace: “We consider social and environmental well-being to be intricately intertwined.”

14. Local communities: The Walt Disney Company

Disney committed to reducing its carbon footprint in its 2020 CSR report with goals for zero net greenhouse gas emissions, zero waste, and a commitment to conserve water. They are actively ensuring strict international labor policies to protect the safety and rights of their employees.

They are also active in the community and encourage employees to do the same. When their parks closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney focused their CSR efforts on local communities. They provided $27 million towards food donations and PPE from closed parks and production sets and encouraged employees to participate in virtual volunteering.

15. Packaging: LEGO

LEGO sustainability commitments
LEGO sustainability commitments

Lego will invest $400 million over the next three years with a focus on accelerating its efforts in the area of sustainability. Their primary focus as a modern-day superbrand is to phase out single-use plastic packaging for its bricks with all packaging to be sustainable by 2025. From 2021 on they will trial paper bags in boxes in partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council. They are also investing in more sustainable products that create zero waste and are carbon neutral.

LEGO Group CEO, Niels B Christiansen said: “We cannot lose sight of the fundamental challenges facing future generations. It’s critical we take urgent action now to care for the planet and future generations. As a company that looks to children as our role models, we are inspired by the millions of kids who have called for more urgent action on climate change.”

16. . Social media & journalism: The Washington Post

In the wake of fake news, news outlets are taking to social media networks like TikTok to address a new audience and tackle false information around issues such as the U.S election and coronavirus. 

The Washington Post is one example of a news brand using TikTok successfully. Their tagline is ‘We are a Newspaper’ and their TikTok profile already has 1 million followers (and growing). Their goal? To draw in new readers and build trust using short-form videos and viral content.

According to Dave Jorgensen, the Post’s social media guru, the rapid rise of TikTok is down to the fact that the platform has increased the trust between the paper and its followers. He believes that TikTok is journalism in every sense. “Pretty much every other TikTok has something news related in it and with that we are delivering news to the users. That’s what journalism is – delivering news however you are able to in a responsible way.

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(Page updated Nov 2022)

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