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Closing the Gap: It’s Good Business

Corporate Citizenship: Obligation, Necessity, Driver of Purpose

Operating within sustainable limits and giving something back to people and communities is not only a moral and ethical imperative for many companies—it’s also good business. Whether it’s about complying with regulations, meeting targets and goals, enhancing reputation or finding your organization’s deeper sense of purpose, Corporate Citizenship fosters resilience internally and results in positive impact externally.

This is especially important for resource intensive industries and large multinational companies that produce negative externalities (like pollution) as a consequence of doing business on a very large scale. Energy companies, for example, have an undeniable responsibility to sustain the ecosystems they extract from and safeguard the communities they operate within. The impact of scale, however, works both ways.

There’s no doubt about it, large organizations leave a big footprint—and that has its challenges for both companies and communities. But having extensive reach also allows an organization to engage more people and make a difference not just locally, but nationally or globally. Procter & Gamble, for example, serves nearly 5 billion people around the world—about 70 percent of the planet. Getting even a fraction of that 5 billion committed to more eco-friendly products and habits could lead to significant reductions in energy, material and water use, solid waste, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Other large global players have also been steadily working to step up innovation, reduce waste, and dial down carbon emissions. Hilton Worldwide has reduced its waste output by 26.8 percent, carbon output by 20.2 percent and water use by 13.1 percent since 2009. The Clorox Company has reduced its greenhouse gases emissions by 12 percent and the amount of waste it sends to landfill per case of product sold by 34 percent since 2011, according to the company’s 2014 annual report.

Was it necessary? And what about the payoff? Clorox’s efforts to reduce its footprint and improve product sustainability have averaged $15 million in annual cost savings since 2008, helping to offset raw material cost increases and enable investments in innovation and demand creation. Now that’s smart business.

But are there benefits beyond those related to cost savings—and simply knowing you’ve acted ethically? According to The Guardian, higher levels of employee engagement and retention also strengthen the business case for sustainability. When it comes to finding and keeping top talent, companies can offer benefits and good pay—but they can also offer a less easily articulated perk: the sense of satisfaction that comes with working toward a higher goal.

Here at Interbrand, we recently came together to contribute to a worthy goal ourselves: fighting world hunger. On September 16th, we worked in collaboration with FEED to raise 1 million meals. We put out the call for others to join us in sharing a meal with the people they love, while donating meals to those they may never meet—and the results exceeded expectations. With hundreds of people hosting beautiful and meaningful dinner parties in their homes, schools, companies, and churches, our #FEEDsupper came to life. By coming together, we surpassed our goal, raising a total of 1,668,332 meals!

As these examples illustrate, brands have the power, influence, and resources to shift paradigms, change the way things are done, and accelerate or expand positive contributions to society. To learn more about what businesses are doing to make a difference—and the role their brands play in making a purposeful, progressive impact, check out the latest installment of Closing the Gap!

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