As a result of new regulations and reporting requirements, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a top-line concern for consumer brands and retailers. But it isn’t just corporate entities driving this urgency. Consumers are spending more mind- and wallet-share on businesses that are investing in the issues that are impacting our lives. Plus, employees are more closely critiquing their employers based on their focus on CSR.
From social issues to environmental concerns, governance, diversity and inclusion, the range of CSR elements is rapidly expanding. But which issues are brands and retailers prioritizing, and how are they investing? Retail TouchPoints partnered with Amazon Web Services on a survey of more than 500 retail and CPG executives to understand:
- Their firms’ perspectives on CSR;
- Motivators for implementing CSR actions;
- Elements that comprised their strategies; and
- Challenges and enablers around future CSR success.
Here are five ways respondents are tackling new CSR imperatives head-on.
1. They have organizational clarity on CSR goals.
CSR cannot be tackled solely by a specific team or council within your organization. There needs to be a holistic strategy that is developed from the bottom up and implemented from the top down. Executive teams need to use research and analysis to gauge consumer and employee priorities, and then establish goals based on those insights.
Most organizations realize the importance of working toward an aligned vision and set of goals: 85% of respondents said their internal teams are clear on CSR goals and all collectively work to achieve them.
2. Functional goals and incentives are tied to CSR performance.
If everyone is working toward the same CSR goals, they should be assessed and rewarded for their efforts. This is especially key for public companies that now must disclose their CSR progress in business reports and financial filings. Nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents indicated that their team goals or incentives are tied to the company’s CSR performance. This reaffirms the growing role that leadership and Boards of Directors play in establishing and refining CSR approaches.
3. They uncover opportunities across the product value chain.
Because CSR encompasses so many things, there are several paths that retailers can take to develop their strategies. For our survey respondents, the most significant opportunities existed in packaging, reducing product waste and reducing carbon footprint. These represent immediate investments brands and retailers can make and quickly see a measurable impact on their business. Conversely, few respondents seem to prioritize softer, more cultural efforts. For example, despite the increased criticism of organizations’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) priorities, only 26% of respondents said it was critical to their CSR strategy. Even fewer respondents (17%) noted that they were focusing on community activation by giving their people concrete ways to act and support those in crisis.
But like many business strategies, CSR doesn’t come with a cookie-cutter model for success. Executive leaders need to think about the collective brand mission, the values they want to uphold and how to invest in CSR to ensure those values are represented in everything the brand does.
4. They invest in technology to support their CSR goals.
Although there is a clear emphasis on CSR among respondents, retail organizations are clearly mixed in terms of how they use technology to support their efforts. Of the 11 different technology categories represented, social auditing and survey tools were the most widely adopted — and they garnered less than one-third (31%) of responses. Computer vision (25%), automation (22%) and voice technology (22%) were the next most-popular responses.
Moving forward, executive leaders need to weigh the value, timeliness and feasibility of CSR initiatives and technology investments against customer demands and market pressures. For example, how can a brand balance flexible fulfillment and fast delivery offerings against carbon footprint reduction goals? Innovative technologies will increasingly help organizations uncover meaningful metrics, more accurately track their progress and achieve better results from their CSR initiatives.
To learn more about how your retail peers are investing in CSR, download a copy of the report.