If nothing else, the year 2020 has taught us that the world is an increasingly interconnected place. And that corporations play a major role in keeping society functional.

As much of the country continues to shelter in place, many of the world’s challenges in turn, have felt even more pronounced. In response, some important building product brands have assumed the mantle of trying to do good for a greater number of people. And are making it… an integral  part of their brand “voice”.

Businesses have the ability to provide comfort for the masses in ways individuals cannot. Companies large and small can leverage Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to achieve greater affinity for their brands while helping the very audiences they are trying to target. Thoughtful actions can often speak loudly in relevant ways… so it’s important to think deeply about how your CSR efforts can be most effective.

Here are some reasons you should consider a CSR program as well as how two brands in the building products space effectively demonstrated their actions this past week.

Why Corporate Responsibility Is Important

good CSR program attracts talented employees who are eager to make a difference. And empowers them — by allowing them to “do good” — with the corporate resources at their disposal. In addition to boosting company morale and productivity, CSR programs help companies attract and retain loyal customers. It’s been demonstrated time and time again that customers will happily pay a premium for goods and services… when they realize some of the proceeds will be channeled toward important social causes.

Examples of Building Product Companies Doing It Right

Whether it’s the raw materials used to create a product — or the energy used to bring those products to market — all companies have a footprint. Due to the nature of manufacturing, building product companies typically don’t have to look very far to find CSR efforts than can positively impact the environment and/or communities directly or indirectly impacted by their efforts.

For example, Weyerhaeuser — one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, with nearly three million acres of forests in Oregon and Washington State  — has incorporated helping the American Red Cross fight forest fires into its CSR strategy. In fact just this week, the company announced an immediate $150,000 donation to the Red Cross… to support emergency response efforts in communities affected by wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.

With multiple fires still burning and tens of thousands of displaced residents in both states, Weyerhaeuser’s donation is just one way the company can demonstrate that it cares about the communities in which it does business. And won’t sit idly by while its customers are in harm’s way.

Tractor Supply Company, the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, furnishes building supplies to a customer base often involved in ranching, commercial farming and animal husbandry. As storms like Hurricane Laura batter the Gulf Coast area, Tractor Supply has pledged to donate $100,000 to facilities in Louisiana and Texas… including shelters, humane societies, and animal rescues. This money will go toward the purchase of animal feed and products like beds, crates and cleaning supplies.

Very effectively, Tractor Supply demonstrated a CSR effort — aiding the recovery of storm-impacted animals — that speaks to the heart of its customer base.

In terms of optics, CSR programs project authenticity and sincerity to shareholders and consumers alike. Which ultimately can improve a company’s bottom line. In an economy where a lot of people are hurting, it’s important for brands to leverage helpfulness… especially as they have the means to do so.

Consider, for example, Amazon (with an annual revenue of $177.87 billion), who just hosted Amazon Career Day. During the digital career fair, the company offered free one-on-one resume help and career guidance to anyone who wanted it… with the overarching goal of filling 30,000 job vacancies within the company. With 13.6 million Americans unemployed according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, this effort by Amazon to get more Americans working is not only timely, but a perfect example of affinity-generating CSR.

Whether it’s championing diversity or standing up for women’s rights… protecting the environment or helping to eliminate poverty and unemployment, being socially responsible can help companies bolster their image and brand reputation.

Ways to Incorporate CSR into Your Business

All of your company stakeholders may not be able to visualize the return-on-investment that accompanies a strong CSR program. They may see the program as too costly. Or time-consuming. Especially if you’re a small-to-medium-sized company with a limited budget for marketing and outreach.

To make CSR part of your company culture, consider establishing a set of values that illustrates why — and how — your CSR efforts are relevant. This can be integrated into your company’s corporate vision or mission statements. And imparted to employees you seek to hire. Your company can assign value to health and wellness, education, diversity… or whatever you want your team to value and believe in.

As much as possible, try to focus your efforts on outcomes that are measurable. For example, if one of your CSR pillars focuses on the environment, you may be able to achieve measurable savings by reducing product waste, water use, or reliance on the local energy grid. Any action that helps the community, society, or environment can make a big difference. So it’s important to take small steps. And find ways to measure and document your successes.

Companies have the power, influence and resources to take on many social issues on a global and local scale. CSR programs allow them to apply their knowledge and expertise toward helping communities while demonstrating that their business is not “just about making profits”. As consumers continue to navigate their way through uncertain times — businesses that give back and offer collaborative solutions rather than just products — will gain value in the long run.

For tips and ideas on how to fine-tune your company’s CSR efforts in concert with your PR and Content Marketing strategies, contact Steve Kleber at sk@kleberandassociates.com.