The integration of corporate social responsibility (CSR) into the entire customer journey is not only a moral obligation, it can also be an important differentiator. While shareholder value was once for many companies the overriding business objective, in recent years it has been joined by a seamless customer experience.  And in my opinion today a sound CSR policy should be at least as high on the priority list. The best part is that this CSR policy will support the other two objectives! 

CSR is about the pursuit of economic, social and environmental goals: from advocating for women’s equality and protecting the environment to tackling poverty at a local, national or global level. CSR is primarily a moral duty, and at a time when so many companies have benefited from government support during the coronavirus crisis, I think it is only logical to give something back to society. Also, social progress and climate change will put pressure on different business models over time, and a socially responsible company must constantly look to the future if it is to remain relevant in the marketplace. 

CSR and the conscious consumer 

CSR has become a crucial factor in creating and maintaining a competitive advantage. Research by the Reputation Institute shows that 42% of the consumers’ feelings about a company are determined by its CSR activities. This means that a large part of a company’s reputation is based on its vision and approach to sustainability. More than three quarters (77%) of consumers are more motivated to make a purchase when a company shows a commitment to a better world.

CSR may support business performance in a number of ways: 

  • CSR is a differentiating factor: In most consumer goods & retail companies striving for a seamless customer journey is still one of the top priorities. But there is a good chance that your competitor has also made great strides in this area in recent years. It’s almost impossible to copy a CSR policy that is sincere and fully supported by the organization and its people. 
  • Cost reduction: Sustainability efforts don’t have to add cost. On the contrary, by eliminating packaging, sourcing locally, or only allowing delivery trucks to drive out at full capacity, you can even gain a cost advantage. 
  • Greater customer engagement: Consumers like to support companies with a consistent and engaging CSR story by acting as ambassadors for your brand. The conscious customer is only too happy to shout about the socially responsible efforts that their favourite brand is making. 
  • Sustainable B2B relationships: Your B2B customer might have already implemented a CSR policy. If you don’t meet their criteria, you risk being left out. 
  • Greater attractiveness in the labour market: Companies that take care of their staff and society are more appealing to potential employees. A good CSR policy also leads to greater loyalty within your team. 
  • Better access to financial markets: Banks and investors explicitly include CSR criteria in their financing policy. Anyone who presents a sustainable story has an advantage. 

CSR and Unified Commerce: a holistic approach? 

Unified Commerce refers to seamless integration throughout the customer journey, across all business divisions, in terms of technology, organisation and logistics. The ultimate goal? To provide the customer with an experience that’s enjoyable and consistent, everywhere and at all times. 

To achieve Unified Commerce, a holistic approach is essential. The same applies to a CSR policy. For example, it doesn’t help to introduce sustainable packaging if your company operates an outdated and highly polluting fleet of trucks or doesn’t pay attention to the working conditions at your suppliers. 

Consistency throughout the supply chain is a key element of a solid CSR policy. You have to look at CSR across all departments and ensure that there is cross-fertilization between the different divisions. In this way you lay the foundation for a fundamentally sustainable business model, which distinguishes trendsetters from followers. 

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