It pays to do the right thing: Retailers with a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy have achieved performance improvements of up to 20%. Millennials in particular care about what they’re buying, where it’s from and whether a product reflects a bigger purpose.
Given the bottom-line benefits, it’s no surprise to find whole sections of retailers’ websites dedicated to CSR. Retail companies make new claims daily throughout social media, leveraging well known keywords, such as: “locally sourced,” “sustainable,” “free from,” “fair trade,” and many more. New initiatives now appear frequently, with many now focusing on key raw materials and ‘risk’ ingredients, such as palm oil, or the reduction of salt, sugar and fat.
Retail leaders commit to CSR
CSR is so hot that all the major retail players have worked it into their business strategies. For instance, Amazon was the leading corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the United States in 2016, and has invested in wind farms and solar energy as part of its sustainability initiatives.
Competitor Walmart has committed to fighting hunger in collaboration with CPG giants General Mills, Kellogg, Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Heinz and PepsiCo. Walmart also invests in women entrepreneurs as part of its CSR initiatives.
Target recently aligned its CSR initiatives with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, ranging from reduced water consumption and waste diversion to partnering with organizations that encourage nutrition and physical activities to keep families healthy.
CSR as a strategic differentiator
The CSR trend has now filtered down into the product packaging. Ever increasing numbers of new logos are appearing on products to support these claims. Some products employ a traffic light system – red, yellow and green to reflect whether to use the goods rarely, sometimes or often – to help consumers understand the associated health benefits.
What is surprising is how difficult it can be for many brand owners to track their own progress with adapting their products to reflect these claims and therefore substantiate them on a regular basis. All of the required data is often within the retailer’s business; unfortunately, the data is often fragmented or hidden in silos, making it hard to access, analyze and articulate across the company, its supply chain and to customers.
Too often, such fragmented data leads to a massive work effort a few weeks before a brand owner needs to report these claims at year-end to shareholders and customers. By contrast, accurately comparing corporate performance to an objective – and adapting business plans in real time based on data-driven insights – can dramatically impact brand strength and consumer trust.
As CSR grows in influence and strategic importance, it’s critical to have actionable insights at hand, regularly updated and easily accessible. This means designing a clear, high-level dashboard for the role of a brand executive, or marketing team, based on the KPIs that are most critical and meaningful to their objectives. Once stakeholders discover a new insight, they can identify the corresponding data both inside their business and from external sources, then map a clear integration plan.
Prove how your company has committed to CSR
Given the financial and customer experience benefits of a strong, verifiable CSR strategy, isn’t it worth the investment to ensure you are on track (and have a clear action plan when you are not)? Look at your data and business intelligence strategy, and challenge it to make your company even stronger and more attractive to customers. If the insights that you need to achieve your objectives aren’t readily accessible in a format that enables action, it’s time to make a change. It’s no use sitting on a goldmine of information if you don’t make the effort to find a shovel.
Source: Watson, Bruce. Strong sustainability track record can account for 11% of a company’s value – report. The Guardian. October 29, 2015.