5 ways brands can win in the "don't just sit there" economy

The first part of 2018 has blown the lid off of a long-time conversation around the relationship between corporations and social responsibility. Most well-established companies already have CSR programs and many of them do some amazing things. Consider the work that wins at competitions like Engage for Good and Cynopsis Social Good Awards as solid case studies.

However, some brand initiatives put a bad taste in your mouth. Take an oil company cleaning up an ocean they are busy polluting as an example, or a fast food chain creating wellness programs for kids they are driving towards obesity. It’s initiatives like these that are a slap in the face to the construct of “corporate social responsibility.”

On the bright side, let’s look at what’s happening right before our eyes. CSR is evolving into not simply being a “program” in a company or a mention in their manifesto. It’s evolving into a way of doing business and pushing organizations to be part of an ongoing conversation.

In recent months, we’ve seen Delta, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Walmart all make the bold decision to be a part of the dialogue on gun control after the horrific tragedy in Parkland, Florida. Whether their motivation came from their hearts or their wallets, the leaders of these corporations took unprecedented actions by either removing specific products from their shelves or ending some long-standing relationships.

These brands decided to accept the consequences of those actions as the price to pay for something they believed in. They did so knowing they’d get mixed emotions from all their stakeholders – including employees, investors, and customers.

So, I welcome you to the “don’t just sit there” economy.

If you are a business that has the ability do something about an issue impacting the community you serve, then you should expect to feel the pressure to take action. In the “don’t just sit there” economy, inaction is no longer an option when your consumers are demanding change and it will not serve your organization wisely in the long term. This is the new normal.

Some organizations may feel skeptical and hesitant about this budding norm, but those who are already proactive and genuine in their CSR practices are well-equipped to thrive in this evolving, participatory culture.

I believe the organizations that will win in this new economy have five key attributes that will naturally push them to rise above the rest:

 

They know their gifts

Winning organizations know what they do best and how they can apply their skills to the communities they serve without diluting their brand’s values.

They understand their responsibility

Winning organizations recognize what their organization has direct control over and how they can make an immediate impact.

They maximize their excess

Winning organizations don’t accept valuable resources getting wasted – they leverage and utilize their surplus for good. Internal volunteers or voices are not hard to come by.

They are mindful of their part

Winning organizations don’t just jump into an issue for a participation trophy. Instead, they make sure they are mindful of how to match their ideals with the consumers they serve.

Most importantly, they are proactive with their superpowers

Winning organizations understand that many issues impacting communities need help year-round – not just during moments of outrage. The reality is that causes need help, even more, when they are out of sight and out of mind. Companies that participate out of the limelight, will end up winning in the long run.

So, whether we like this new reality or not, I would advise businesses of all sizes to not just sit there; it’s time to get up, give back, and become an organizational catalyst for our future. Assume your community needs you now more than ever – because they do.

Damian Bazadona is the president and founder of Situation Interactive, a digital-first marketing agency that connects people with experiences. He is a speaker at a variety of universities including NYU, Columbia, Yale, and SUNY Albany. For the past seven years, Damian has organized one of the longest running TEDx events — TEDxBroadway.  Follow him on LinkedIn and Medium.