Go to Patagonia’s website, and the first thing you see won’t be clothing—it’s their latest initiative about dams disrupting and contaminating river systems.
As a successful outdoor clothing and gear manufacturer, you might be surprised to see half their homepage dedicated to similar campaigns. But through 2017 research focused on designing for millennials, members of the incoming generations shared with the HNI sponsored research team that they hold companies like Patagonia in high regard not only for their socially responsible approach to labor and manufacturing but for the external causes they champion.
Corporate stewardship is an expectation of many of today’s consumers and authentically sharing the socially responsible part of your DNA can benefit your employees, clients, and stakeholders. Something as simple as sharing waste elimination processes or disclosing sustainability reporting can be enough to set your brand apart or help recruit new top talent. However, it’s not enough to tack on one single initiative. Your values and business practices must align with your own distinctive and compelling vision of stewardship.
In 2011 Patagonia ran their famous “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ad in The New York Times, suggesting shoppers not make new purchases but rather utilize the company’s free repairs service to consume less. And still, their sales grew 40% in the two years following. This campaign’s success is a barometer of changing buying criteria. As global challenges invade everyday conversations, consumers look to support companies that are dependable champions of issues that matter to them.
Corporations have influence and consumers want to see what you do with that influence.
Willing stewards hold themselves accountable to future generations, understanding they’ll one day have only what we leave for them. Initiatives like the CDP, or Carbon Disclosure Project, support environmental integrity by bringing environmental impact analysis directly to the public. This non-profit scores the carbon footprint of countless international companies across a diverse mix of industries, allowing for easy comparison between competitors. While nothing currently requires companies to participate nor are there guidelines for the information they should be held responsible for volunteering, this self-reported environmental disclosure helps to set expectations as consumers are provided with new decision-making criteria.
Corporations have influence and consumers want to see what you do with that influence. Be that activism for water conservation or donating proceeds to a future focused charity, the global audience is starting to expect you to leave the world better than you found it.