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Corporate Social Responsibility Part 2: What Your Customers Want to Know

In the last blog we discussed the importance of category management. In other words, making sure you have the right products, at the right price, at the right time, in the right location. Besides the four P’s of marketing (product, price, promotion and place) you also need to consider how you and your suppliers run their business. We live in a transparent world. Everything we do and say (or don’t do and don’t say) can be spread to the whole world in an instant thanks to cell phones, social media and consumers.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) basically revolves around societal, economic and financial variables and how they impact stakeholders. Whether you are a private or public company, your customers expect you to act in a certain way with regard to your stakeholders.

One of the classes I teach at Saint Joseph’s University is a Business Policy Senior Capstone class. We developed and teach this as a cross functional, applied learning class so our students have the opportunity to learn by doing. Students from different majors work in teams to analyze and make recommendations for a company. We view stakeholders through the lens of the CEO model.

This model takes a stakeholder versus stockholder viewpoint. Stakeholders are everyone from the customers/consumers, employees, owners/shareholders, suppliers, neighbors, communities, municipalities and those people around the world that are affected by everyone listed above.

In other words, “You can do well by doing good.”

How ALL of these stakeholders view your company/brand is critical to your long-term success. If they’re happy, they will support you. If they’re not, they’ll let you and the world know how they feel. Think of how much technology and social media have influenced how we make decisions every day as consumers.

All companies have responsibilities towards a range of people who have a ‘stake’ in what that company does. Certainly, different groups of stakeholders will place a different emphasis on what they expect from the company with regard to balancing social, economic and financial issues. And in most cases, there will always be some stakeholders that have a louder “voice” than others. Some things you need to consider are:

  • Whether you have them in writing or not, everyone has a set of values they follow. If someone asked you what your company values are, could you answer?
  • Do you know anything about the companies that supply you products and services?
  • What are their company values? Do they align with yours?
  • Do they have an ethical code of conduct that tells you how they run their business?
  • How do they treat their employees, vendors, communities?
  •  Where do they source and make their products?
  • If they source their raw materials from other countries, what are the working conditions and wages for the people that work there? Do you know what “Free Trade”, “Fair Trade” and “Living Wages” are? We take many of the things we have in the U.S. for granted (food, shelter, security), but many of the people that help provide products for U.S. consumers are living and working in substandard conditions and not earning a living wage. This has become even more apparent since Covid and our increased attention to our food & beverage supply chain.
  • What is the impact on the environment? Many of the products you sell come from natural resources. What is the process of getting things from nature through processing and ultimately to the end consumer?

Whether you are an on-premise or an off-premise retailer, all of these things impact your business as well. You need to understand how you impact your stakeholders and adjust your supply chain operations & marketing programs accordingly. If you take a stakeholder view of your business, it will positively impact your bottom line!

And remember, Marketing is a race with no finish line.

George Latella is a Professor of Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food Marketing is one of the largest majors at Saint Joe’s and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. George also consults on sales & marketing strategy. He can be reached at glatella@sju.edu or 610-660-2254.

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