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30 July 2019
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become something of a cliché – almost an object of ridicule and cynicism, especially when it's associated with big banks and financial institutions. For many of these companies, CSR is simply a box-ticking exercise aimed at building their brand reputation, with the actual social impact itself secondary.
But a new generation of social enterprises – companies whose business model is based on ethical practices or a contributing to a charitable cause – is making doing good fashionable again.
A tangible impact on brand perception
Social impact also has tangible effects for a business. Employees are more engaged and motivated when they're performing ‘impactful work' – a clear mission and strategy can therefore be a key driver in attracting talent to an organisation.
It has a positive impact on brand perception, too. According to market research firm Kantar Millward Brown, 58% of adults don't trust a brand until they have seen ‘real world proof' it has kept its promises, and making good on social commitments is a tried-and-tested way of doing this.
This is particularly effective when companies tackle a pressing contemporary issue, with 66% of consumers, for instance, confirming they would feel more positive about a company that that could demonstrate it was reducing its carbon emissions. It has become increasingly important for companies to demonstrate their green credentials, and many are now regularly accused of ‘greenwashing' when their environmental claims don't match reality.
Reap the rewards
Maintaining profit margins while contributing to a social cause can be simple – and CEOs are increasingly recognising the value of a paying more than just lip-service to corporate social responsibility. A positive social impact can help drive sales, attract customers and build a corporate culture that encourages participation and engagement.
There are barriers, of course. In the United States, for instance, a large proportion of CEOs worry that committing their business to a charitable cause will be interpreted as taking a side in a political debate. But those that do reap the rewards – and that's what the Lloyds Bank Positive Social Impact Award recognises.
Recognising a positive social impact
It highlights companies that have addressed social challenges or made efforts to improve their local communities, through investment, partnership or employee-led initiatives. Last year saw a diverse range of organisations nominated, offering everything from leadership schemes to retirement homes.
The winner, however, was The Daily Sparkle, a newspaper specifically designed for elderly people living with dementia. A self-styled ‘reminiscence paper"