Top Brands Taking Corporate Responsibility Seriously
We all want to shop ethically, but how do we tell the brands that are genuinely dedicated to social responsibility from the brands that are just waving the latest business buzzword around?
Ethically-minded consumers generally have to do some research to discover which products and brands are the most aligned with their values. Apps like the Good Guide, which has rated over 75,000 popular products based on their environmental, health and social responsibility credentials, are a big help. There are also various corporate social responsibility (CSR) indices that rank brands on their efforts. The Business in the Community CR Index is a good place to start.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is like giving your favorite superhero cape to a company. Just as superheroes use their powers to save the day and make the world a better place, CSR is all about companies using their influence and resources to create a positive impact on society and the environment.
Imagine a company that not only sells fantastic products b ut also cares deeply about the world we live in. They don’t just focus on making money; they take responsibility for their actions and think about how they can contribute to a better future.
CSR is like a guiding compass for these companies. It inspires them to go beyond profit-making and consider the well-being of everyone and everything affected by their operations. They think about their employees, making sure they have fair working conditions and opportunities to grow. They care about the communities they operate in, lending a helping hand to those in need, supporting local initiatives, and being good neighbors. They are also mindful of the environment, working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve resources, and protect our precious planet.
Just like superheroes, companies with a strong CSR mindset have superpowers. They have the power to make a real difference. They might invest in renewable energy, promote recycling and sustainable practices, or develop innovative solutions to tackle global challenges like climate change, poverty, or inequality.
But it doesn’t stop there. CSR is about collaboration and involving everyone. These superhero companies engage with their customers, employees, and stakeholders, listening to their concerns and involving them in decision-making. They understand that together, we can achieve much more than we can alone.
So, next time you come across a company that embraces CSR, remember that they are not just selling products or services. They are wearing a superhero cape, using their powers to create a positive impact, and making the world a better place for all of us.
Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility in Action
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can take various forms, depending on the goals and priorities of a company.
- Skills and Education Initiatives
- Volunteerism and Employee Engagement
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Health and Wellness Programs
- Community Development and Infrastructure Support
- Consumer Education and Safety Initiatives
- Ethical Marketing and Advertising Practices
- Human Rights and Labor Rights Advocacy
- Supply Chain Transparency and Responsible Sourcing
- Waste Reduction and Recycling Programs
- Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Efforts
- Renewable Energy Adoption and Support
- Water Conservation and Access Initiatives
How Millennials and Generation z sees Corporate Social Responsibility
Millennials and Generation Z have a strong inclination towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and view it as a vital aspect of responsible business practices. These generations prioritize companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to social and environmental impact. They actively seek out businesses that align with their values and go beyond profit-making to contribute to the betterment of society.
Companies that prioritize CSR and showcase their values create a deeper connection with Millennials and Gen Z, leading to increased loyalty and support.
Transparency and authenticity are essential factors for Millennials and Gen Z when evaluating CSR efforts. They appreciate companies that are open about their practices, impact, and goals. Greenwashing or insincere attempts to capitalize on social issues without taking substantial action are quickly recognized. These generations value companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to making a difference and are transparent about their progress, challenges, and areas for improvement.
Moreover, Millennials and Gen Z actively engage with CSR initiatives. They seek opportunities for hands-on involvement, such as volunteering programs or participating in social and environmental initiatives.
Meaningful engagement with these generations involves listening to their input, involving them in decision-making processes, and valuing their contributions. Companies that provide such engagement opportunities create a sense of ownership and empowerment among Millennials and Gen Z, fostering a stronger connection and loyalty.
Top Brands Doing it Right
A little bit of groundwork can go a long way to helping you make more informed consumer choices – and do your bit for the world at the same time. To get you started, here’s five brands taking corporate responsibility seriously:
Patagonia’s Environmental Stewardship:
Patagonia is widely recognized for its exceptional environmental stewardship efforts. Patagonia’s dedication to transparency, ethical sourcing, and giving back to the environment sets a strong example for other companies in the industry.
Here are some key aspects of Patagonia’s environmental initiatives, highlighted with numbers:
- 68% Recycled Materials: Patagonia prioritizes the use of recycled materials in its products. Currently, approximately 68% of their fabrics are made from recycled materials, such as recycled polyester sourced from plastic bottles, reducing the demand for new resources.
- 100% Traceable Down: Patagonia ensures that all the down used in their products comes from birds that are not force-fed or live-plucked. They have achieved 100% traceability of their down supply chain, ensuring ethical sourcing practices.
- $89 Million Donated: Through its “1% for the Planet” commitment, Patagonia has donated over $89 million to environmental organizations and initiatives since the program’s inception. This represents 1% of the company’s sales, contributing directly to conservation efforts.
- 5,000+ Repair Jobs Annually: Patagonia’s Worn Wear program focuses on extending the life of their products. Each year, they perform over 5,000 repairs on garments, gear, and accessories, encouraging customers to repair instead of replacing items.
- 95,000+ Items Resold: Patagonia’s Worn Wear marketplace allows customers to buy and sell used Patagonia gear, contributing to a circular economy. To date, over 95,000 items have been resold, reducing waste and maximizing the lifespan of their products.
- 1 Million Acres Protected: Patagonia actively engages in environmental activism and supports grassroots efforts to protect wild spaces. Through partnerships and direct action, they have been involved in campaigns that have led to the protection of over 1 million acres of land.
These numbers illustrate Patagonia’s significant commitment to environmental stewardship. From using recycled materials to supporting environmental causes and promoting repair and reuse, the company demonstrates a holistic approach to sustainability and actively works to minimize its environmental impact.
Google’s Renewable Energy Investment and Corporate Social Responsibility
Google has been actively investing in renewable energy projects as part of its commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). It’s important to note that Google’s renewable energy investments continue to evolve over time.
- Goal of 100% Renewable Energy: In 2017, Google announced that it had reached its target of purchasing enough renewable energy to cover its global operations. This means that all of Google’s data centers and offices are powered by renewable energy sources.
- Renewable Energy Purchases: Google has made substantial investments in renewable energy projects through power purchase agreements (PPAs). As of 2020, the company has signed contracts to purchase over 5.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy worldwide. These contracts contribute to the production of clean electricity and help accelerate the growth of renewable energy markets.
- Largest Corporate Renewable Purchaser: According to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), Google has consistently ranked as the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world. This underscores the company’s commitment to transitioning to clean energy sources and driving positive change in the energy sector.
- Investments in Solar and Wind Power: Google has invested in numerous solar and wind power projects globally. For example, in 2019, the company announced its largest renewable energy deal to date, with an investment in a package of solar and wind projects in the United States, totaling 1.6 GW of capacity.
- Carbon Offset Projects: In addition to investing in renewable energy, Google also focuses on carbon offset projects to neutralize its carbon footprint. The company has invested in initiatives such as forest conservation, landfill gas capture, and renewable energy generation in underserved communities.
Toms’ One for One Program
Toms is widely recognized for its impactful One for One program, which forms a significant part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Toms’ One for One program exemplifies the company’s commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of disadvantaged individuals. Through their innovative approach and widespread donations, Toms has impacted millions of lives worldwide. The program not only addresses immediate needs but also raises awareness about global issues and inspires consumers to engage in socially responsible shopping.
- The One for One Model: Toms’ One for One program is based on the simple idea that for every product purchased, Toms donates a product to a person in need. Initially, the program started with donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased, but it has expanded to include other products as well.
- Over 100 Million Pairs of Shoes Donated: Since its inception in 2006, Toms has donated over 100 million pairs of shoes to children in need around the world. These donations provide vital footwear to protect against soil-transmitted diseases, injuries, and other health risks.
- Expanded Impact Beyond Shoes: Toms has extended its One for One program to include eyewear. Through the Eyewear program, for each pair of Toms eyewear purchased, the company provides eye care services and prescription glasses or medical treatment to individuals in need. This expansion has further enhanced Toms’ social impact and reach.
- Clean Water Initiatives: In addition to shoes and eyewear, Toms has partnered with organizations to support clean water initiatives. With every Toms Roasting Co. coffee product purchased, Toms provides one week of clean water to a person in need, ensuring access to safe drinking water.
- Sustainable Marketplace: Toms also operates the Toms Marketplace, an online platform that features a curated collection of socially conscious products from other mission-driven companies. By promoting and supporting these brands, Toms continues to drive positive change and expand its impact in a broader context.
Microsoft’s corporate social responsibility
Microsoft is deeply committed to accessibility as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. The company recognizes the importance of creating inclusive technology that empowers people with disabilities.
Here is an explanation of Microsoft’s accessibility initiatives, as well as an overview of other CSR initiatives they undertake:
- Accessibility Initiatives:
- 1 Billion People: Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. They estimate that there are over 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities, and their accessibility initiatives are aimed at serving this significant population.
- $25 Million Accessibility Fund: Microsoft has established a $25 million fund called the “AI for Accessibility” program. This fund supports projects that leverage artificial intelligence to create innovative solutions for people with disabilities.
- Environmental Sustainability:
- Carbon Neutrality: Since 2012, Microsoft has been carbon neutral across its operations. They achieved this by investing in renewable energy projects, implementing energy-efficient technologies, and purchasing renewable energy credits and carbon offsets.
- Renewable Energy Purchases: Microsoft has made substantial investments in renewable energy. As of 2020, they have purchased over 23 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy, which is equivalent to powering approximately 6 million homes.
- Zero Waste Goal: Microsoft has set a goal to achieve zero waste for its direct operations, including data centers, by 2030. They are implementing waste reduction strategies and promoting recycling and composting.
- Philanthropy and Digital Inclusion:
- $1 Billion in Technology Donations: Through their “Technology for Social Impact” initiative, Microsoft has donated more than $1 billion in technology resources to nonprofits and humanitarian organizations worldwide. These donations help these organizations leverage technology to address social and environmental challenges.
- Digital Skills Training: Microsoft aims to provide digital skills training to 25 million people globally by the end of 2022. They offer programs like “Microsoft Learn” and “Microsoft Imagine Academy” to enhance digital literacy and provide training resources.
- Diversity and Inclusion:
- Diverse Supplier Spend: Microsoft has committed to spend $2 billion annually with certified diverse suppliers by 2022. This initiative supports economic opportunities for minority-owned, women-owned, and disabled-owned businesses.
- Employee Diversity: Microsoft is actively working to increase diversity within its workforce. As of 2020, 31.6% of their U.S. employees and 27.2% of their global employees were from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds.
These numbers highlight Microsoft’s concrete efforts and investments in accessibility, environmental sustainability, philanthropy, and diversity and inclusion.
Coca-Cola’s Water Stewardship
Coca-Cola focuses on water stewardship as a part of their CSR efforts. They strive to replenish the water used in their beverages by supporting water conservation projects, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and improving water access and sanitation in communities where they operate.
Coca-Cola’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts can be exemplified through various initiatives and impact achieved over the years.
- Philanthropy and Community Support:
- $1 Billion Donation: Coca-Cola has committed to donating $1 billion to charitable causes globally by 2025 through their “Replenish Africa Initiative” (RAIN). This initiative focuses on improving access to clean water and sanitation in Africa.
- 700+ Community Water Programs: Coca-Cola has partnered with local communities and organizations to implement more than 700 water programs globally, benefiting millions of people by providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
- Environmental Stewardship:
- 195 Billion Liters of Water Replenished: Through their water stewardship initiatives, Coca-Cola has replenished an estimated 195 billion liters of water to communities and nature, achieving its goal to replenish the equivalent amount of water used in their beverages and production processes.
- 100% Sustainable Packaging Goal: Coca-Cola aims to make 100% of its packaging recyclable by 2025. As of 2020, they have made significant progress, with 98% of their packaging materials being recyclable.
- Empowering Women and Diversity:
- 3 Million Women Empowered: Coca-Cola’s “5by20” program has empowered over 3 million women entrepreneurs across the company’s value chain since its inception. The program provides access to business skills training, financial services, and mentoring to help women build sustainable businesses.
- 40% Women in Leadership Roles: Coca-Cola is committed to gender diversity in leadership positions. As of 2020, women accounted for 40% of senior leadership roles within the company.
- Health and Wellness:
- 800 Reduced- or No-Sugar Beverage Options: Coca-Cola has expanded its portfolio to offer a wide range of reduced- or no-sugar beverage options. They offer around 800 such choices globally, providing consumers with healthier alternatives.
- 700,000 Active Living Partnerships: Coca-Cola has collaborated with over 700,000 partners, including schools, NGOs, and government organizations, to promote active living and encourage physical activity.
These numbers highlight the tangible impact of Coca-Cola’s CSR efforts. From significant investments in community support and water programs to empowering women entrepreneurs, promoting sustainable packaging, and offering healthier beverage options, Coca-Cola demonstrates its commitment to creating a positive social and environmental impact.
Unilever’s Sustainable Sourcing
Unilever, a global consumer goods company, is known for its strong commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). By sourcing ingredients sustainably, reducing waste, supporting fair trade, and taking climate action, Unilever strives to create a positive and sustainable future for both the environment and the communities it operates in.
- Sustainable Sourcing:
- Sustainable Palm Oil: Unilever has been a leader in sustainable palm oil sourcing. As of 2020, 97% of the palm oil used in their products is from certified sustainable sources.
- Sustainable Tea: Unilever is dedicated to sourcing tea sustainably. They have achieved 100% sustainable sourcing of tea for their Lipton and PG Tips brands since 2018, ensuring that the tea comes from Rainforest Alliance certified farms.
- Sustainable Agriculture: Unilever is actively promoting sustainable agricultural practices. They have implemented programs to support smallholder farmers, aiming to improve their livelihoods and promote sustainable farming techniques.
- Waste Reduction and Recycling:
- Zero Waste to Landfill: Unilever has made significant progress in waste reduction. As of 2020, 99% of their manufacturing sites send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill.
- Plastic Packaging: Unilever has set ambitious targets to reduce its use of virgin plastic and increase the use of recycled plastic. By 2025, they aim to reduce their use of virgin plastic packaging by 50% and ensure that 100% of their plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
- Plastic Recycling Initiatives: Unilever is actively involved in initiatives to improve plastic recycling infrastructure. They have committed €100 million to the “Unilever Packaging Fund” to invest in waste collection, sorting, and recycling projects.
- Social Impact and Empowerment:
- Fairtrade: Unilever has a long-standing partnership with Fairtrade, supporting fair and sustainable trade practices. They are the largest global purchaser of Fairtrade-certified tea and cocoa.
- Enhancing Livelihoods: Through their “Enhancing Livelihoods Fund,” Unilever invests in projects that aim to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and workers in their supply chain. The fund has committed €1 billion to support these initiatives by 2020.
- Climate Action:
- Carbon Footprint Reduction: Unilever is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, they aim to achieve net-zero emissions from their own operations and source 100% of their energy from renewable sources.
- Renewable Energy Transition: As of 2020, 61% of Unilever’s total energy use comes from renewable sources, an increase from 38% in 2019.
These numbers demonstrate Unilever’s tangible efforts to drive sustainability and social impact.
Ben & Jerry’s
As if you needed another excuse to eat ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s have a stellar reputation for social responsibility. From animal welfare for their dairy cows to sourcing only Fair Trade ingredients for their products, this planet-friendly ice cream company take their impact seriously.
The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation donates funds to community initiatives, awarding over $1.8 million a year. They’re also devoted advocates for issues they care about including equal marriage, climate justice and peace-building.
- Fairtrade Certified Ingredients: Ben & Jerry’s uses Fairtrade-certified ingredients in their ice creams. As of 2021, 100% of the cocoa, vanilla, coffee, and sugar used in their products are sourced from Fairtrade-certified producers.
- Supporting Small-Scale Farmers: Ben & Jerry’s supports small-scale farmers by working with cooperatives and organizations worldwide. For instance, they have partnered with Fairtrade cooperatives in West Africa, benefiting over 4,000 cocoa farmers.
- Carbon Neutrality: Ben & Jerry’s has achieved carbon neutrality for their global operations since 2018. This means they offset their greenhouse gas emissions through investments in renewable energy projects and carbon credits.
- Packaging Waste Reduction: It is dedicated to reducing packaging waste. They have committed to making all of their packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by 2025. Currently, they have achieved 85% of their packaging materials being recyclable or compostable.
- Donations to Charitable Causes: Ben & Jerry’s donates a portion of their annual profits to charitable organizations and community initiatives. They allocate a minimum of 7.5% of pre-tax profits to support these causes.
- Employee Engagement and Volunteerism: Ben & Jerry’s encourages employee engagement in social and environmental issues. Each employee is given four hours of paid time per month to volunteer for nonprofit organizations.
- Non-GMO Commitment: Ben & Jerry’s is committed to using non-GMO ingredients in their ice creams. They source their ingredients from suppliers that adhere to strict non-GMO standards.
- Living Wage Commitment: Ben & Jerry’s has a living wage policy for their employees. They aim to pay all employees, both in their company-owned locations and throughout their supply chain, a living wage.
These numbers demonstrate Ben & Jerry’s tangible efforts in implementing CSR initiatives.
P&G (Procter & Gamble)
P&G (Procter & Gamble), a multinational consumer goods company, has established a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
- Environmental Sustainability:
- Climate Commitment: P&G has set ambitious goals to reduce its environmental impact. By 2030, they aim to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across their operations.
- Renewable Energy: P&G is actively transitioning to renewable energy sources. As of 2021, they have increased their use of renewable electricity to 10% globally and are working towards sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030.
- Packaging Sustainability: P&G is dedicated to reducing packaging waste. They have committed to making 100% of their packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030 and have implemented innovative packaging designs to minimize environmental impact.
- Responsible Sourcing and Supply Chain:
- Sustainable Sourcing: P&G is committed to responsible sourcing of raw materials. They work closely with suppliers to ensure sustainable practices, including responsible palm oil sourcing and protection of biodiversity.
- Supplier Diversity: P&G actively promotes supplier diversity and inclusion. They aim to increase their spend with women-owned and minority-owned businesses to foster economic empowerment and create more equitable opportunities.
- Social Impact and Community Support:
- Education and Empowerment: P&G is focused on improving access to education and skill development. Their “Educate a Child, Build a Nation” program supports quality education for underprivileged children in various countries.
- Clean Drinking Water: P&G’s “Children’s Safe Drinking Water” program provides water purification technology to communities in need, addressing the global issue of clean water access.
- Disaster Relief: P&G supports disaster relief efforts by providing essential products and financial aid during times of crisis.
- Diversity and Inclusion:
- Equality and Inclusion: P&G is committed to fostering an inclusive work environment. They strive for gender equality and diversity representation at all levels of the organization, promoting a culture of respect and equal opportunities.
P&G regularly reports on its CSR progress through sustainability reports, providing transparency and accountability.
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company has implemented several unique corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that set them apart in the automotive industry.
- Ford’s Approach to Sustainability:
- Eco-Conscious Manufacturing: Ford has been using soy-based foams in their vehicles since 2007, reducing petroleum usage by around 20 million pounds annually.
- Water Conservation: Ford has reduced water usage per vehicle produced by 72% between 2000 and 2020.
- Climate Change Resilience: Ford has set a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and reduce CO2 emissions from its vehicles by approximately 30% between 2020 and 2030.
- Empowering Communities:
- Ford Resource and Engagement Centers (FREC): FRECs provide support to thousands of community members annually, offering services such as job training, education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship opportunities.
- Ford Next Generation Learning: This initiative has reached over 40 communities in the United States, positively impacting over 2,000 schools and engaging more than 2 million students.
- Innovations for Social Impact:
- Ford Mobile Farm: Ford’s mobile farm initiative helps address food insecurity. Since its launch, the program has brought fresh produce to over 20,000 people in underserved communities.
- Ford Fund’s Disaster Relief Efforts: Ford Fund has provided over $3 million in grants and in-kind donations to assist communities affected by natural disasters.
- Ford’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion:
- Accelerating Women in Manufacturing: Through the “Women in Manufacturing” program, Ford has increased the representation of women in manufacturing roles, with women making up 30% of their U.S. manufacturing workforce as of 2020.
- Supplier Diversity Development: Ford has spent over $8 billion with minority-owned and women-owned suppliers since 2010, actively promoting supplier diversity.
These numbers provide a glimpse into the impact of Ford’s unique CSR initiatives.
Netflix’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) is evident through its various initiatives.
- Inclusive Content:
- Original Content Diversity: Netflix invests in diverse storytelling and representation. In 2020, 45% of its original content focused on underrepresented communities.
- International Content: Netflix supports content from different countries and cultures. As of 2021, they offer content in more than 190 countries, reaching a global audience.
- Philanthropy and Community Engagement:
- Netflix Impact: Through the “Netflix Impact” initiative, the company supports nonprofits and social impact organizations working on various societal issues. The program provides financial support and resources to help drive positive change.
- COVID-19 Relief Fund: In response to the pandemic, Netflix established a $150 million relief fund to support creatives and production crews affected by halted productions.
- Employee Benefits and Diversity:
- Inclusion and Diversity: Netflix prioritizes diversity and inclusion within its workforce and content. They have made commitments to increase representation and create an inclusive work environment.
- Competitive Employee Benefits: Netflix offers a comprehensive benefits package, including health insurance, parental leave, and flexible work arrangements, to support employee well-being and work-life balance.
Luxury online retailer YOOX are showing how a well-chosen collaboration between brands can do some serious social good. Their partnership with Australian fashion brand We Are Handsome has created the YOOX Loves the Reef project, designed to raise funds to support the conservation work of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Proceeds from sales of their beautiful ocean-inspired swimwear line will directly benefit one of the world’s most vital ecosystems. By pooling their skills and resourcing, the two brands have proved that two heads really are better than one.
The Swedish furniture design brand set up the IKEA Foundation to achieve their mission of creating “a better everyday life for as many people as possible around the world.”
Recent work of the foundation includes a huge €40 million grant to the We Mean Business Coalition to support its work in encouraging businesses to source 100% renewable power and tackle climate change. They also donated €1 million to Save the Children’s work helping the Rohingya child refugees as part of their Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign. Donations come from proceeds of sales, as well as by involving customers and employees in fund-raising.