What do social responsibility and sustainability have to do with excellence? A lot. Companies that embrace sustainability and stay accountable to the communities they operate within are more efficient, have lower costs, are more resilient in the face of scarce commodities and escalating prices, have a better relationship with all of their stakeholders and ultimately, are better positioned for long-term success. Perhaps that’s why Erika Karp, CEO of Cornerstone Capital, uses “corporate sustainability” and “corporate excellence” interchangeably. Her view that sustainability should be “core to the business, and not in a corner” continues to gain credence among investors and in corporate boardrooms—and for good reason.
Smart businesses realize that the world is changing, economies are changing, and conditions—from climate and availability of resources to social and realities—are becoming more complicated and fraught with risk. Failure to adapt to changing conditions, take accountability for impacts, or give back in a meaningful way can diminish brand and business value. For this reason, rather than seeing environmental and social variables as “extra” financial risks, they are now being seen as more primary ones, which is motivating more businesses to make Corporate Citizenship inherent to their business. In fact, adding a Chief Sustainability Officer may make all the difference in terms of future-proofing your business, mitigating risk, and, by extension, boosting brand value.
Changing the status quo isn’t easy but values-based investment for the longer term is catching on and the lines between “business” and “social” continue to blur. International financial conglomerate, the Barnett Capital Group, for example, has launched a Corporate Social Responsibility program to benefit infants and children. Seeking to invest in social programs that will have a positive impact on low-income communities in Latin America, Barnett Capital has committed to help one of the oldest and most prestigious civil associations in Venezuela make a improve the lives of children.
With Veteran’s Day not far behind and the holiday season upon us, some companies have been focusing their efforts on honoring U.S. troops and helping military families. In addition to longstanding social responsibility partnerships with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and United Way, last year Whirlpool was named the official appliance sponsor to Homes For Our Troops, a U.S. non-profit organization that assists veterans who were severely injured in combat. In addition, Whirlpool has bolstered its commitment to hiring and representing veterans in its own employee demographics. Joining forces with the Armed Services YMCA, the Jack Daniel Distillery is funding travel costs for enlisted service members and their families through “Operation Ride Home,” a program that has helped over 1,000 people make it home for the holidays.
While charitable giving has long been a part of corporate culture, today many companies are looking to make a larger social impact. That’s just what Cisco, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and the National Geographic Society are doing that by bringing a new kind of employee benefits program to light . Leveraging the purchasing power of the participating companies’ collective workforce, it offers employees a coast-to-coast home solar flat rate that is on average 35 percent below the current average price in the U.S. More than just providing an amazing employee perk, these companies are powerfully communicating their commitment to sustainability—and putting future-forward thinking into practice.
From the charitable activities of companies like the Barnett Capital Group, Whirpool, and Jack Daniels to the innovative initiatives of organizations like Cisco and 3M, strong brands create an environment where the lives of everyone connected to their businesses are enriched and brimming with opportunity to thrive. At Interbrand, we firmly believe that there’s no conflict between economic prosperity and good corporate citizenship. In fact, the two are actually mutually dependent upon each other. Sustainable, socially responsible organizations are indeed cultivating excellence, demonstrating excellence—and, in both large and small ways, are changing the world for the better.
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! If you’re not already on our mailing list, contact us here to receive our monthly newsletter, recapping highlights in sustainable business news and offering insights on Corporate Citizenship practice and strategy.