Simply having a social purpose is no longer enough to set your business apart.
Companies from all industries are increasingly jumping on the social impact bandwagon. From high-end jewelry made with responsibly sourced gemstones to buy-one-give-one brands, these companies are turning social responsibility into good business.
This trend is generally positive. After all, market-driven social impact organizations have the unique ability to spark consumers’ awareness, attention, and support for important issues. And consumers are clamoring for products that make a difference, too.
Unfortunately, though, some companies see social impact as nothing more than a marketing tool. Causewashing — in which profit-driven brands make exaggerated social impact claims — is on the rise. As a result, it's more difficult than ever for businesses with authentic social impact missions to stand out from the crowd. Not just that, but causewashing casts a shadow on businesses with legitimate social impact agendas. As consumers are forced to work harder to sort out what is and isn’t empty virtue signaling, they are growing increasingly wary of all social purpose brands.
The good news is that authenticity matters now more than ever. Your company's genuine commitment to a cause still can set you apart. To win the trust and loyalty of socially minded consumers, your social impact agenda needs to be part of your business’s DNA, not a bolted-on strategy to drive up sales.
If your business is authentic in its commitment to making an impact, your challenge will be to communicate your narrative so that consumers know you’re the real deal. And that means crafting an impact story that’s more than just a story.