- Why Purpose?
- Why Doing Good Works
- Social Impact in Action – How to Make Money Doing Good + Key Statistics
- 1) Elevate Brand Value
- 2) Boost eCommerce Growth
- 3) Gain Publicity
- 4) Engage Employees
- Key Definitions
- What is Mission?
- What is Social Impact?
- What is ESG?
- What is Cause Marketing?
- What are the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals?
- What is a B Corp?
- What is a Benefit Corporation (PBC)?
- Tying it All Together
- Using Brand Purpose to Guide Social Impact
- 1) Address the Needs of Others
- 2) Put in Time and Effort
- 3) Garner Internal Buy-in
- Tying it All Together – They Can’t Stand Alone
- One Last Thing: Consistency
- 1% of Proceeds
- One-for-One Product Donation
- Supply Chain
- Tech Product for Good
- Aligning with Brand Purpose
- 1) Check in with Your Brand Purpose
- 2) Measure Impact
- 3) Tie to The United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- Leaders in Social Impact
- Leesa Mattresses
- Warby Parker’s Social Impact
- Blake Mycoskie – Founder of TOMS and the One-for-One Giving Model
- Carol Cone – “The Mother of Social Purpose”
- Yvon Chouinard - Founder of Patagonia and 1% For The Planet
- About Supur
If you haven’t noticed it yet, social purpose is on the rise.
Technology has made our lives so much easier, giving us more time and capacity to focus on the important things in life – health, relationships, growth, and purpose.
Millennials and Gen Z are more conscious than ever, aligning themselves with brands and causes that truly reflect their values. We’re seeing a shift in consumer spending to purpose-driven and sustainable brands that put their social impact at the forefront of their work. Because of this, young brands are leveraging their understanding of these important values to disrupt their industries, while older brands rush to adapt in a competitive landscape.
I’m excited to walk you through everything you need to know about social impact and brand purpose.
Purpose is a powerful tool. When used right purpose can help elevate brand value, gain publicity, boost online sales, and engage employees. Here, we’ll uncover why it works and key social impact statistics you should know about.
Why Doing Good Works
Here, we’ll walk through how social impact and purpose run through an organization to drive business impact. It starts with the individual’s need for purpose.
People are constantly searching for a sense of purpose.
It starts with the individual. People care about having a purpose and taking part in something greater than themselves. Since many of our daily tasks have become automated, we spend less time on basic operations and more time looking for true happiness. Additionally, the need for emotional connection as tech continues to dominate our lives is dire.
Success has evolved. It encompasses not only financial success, career success, or even success in our hobbies but also our philanthropic efforts and impact on others.
By integrating social impact into business, employees and customers can fulfill their needs for purpose through their daily routines. If instead of just buying socks, you could buy socks and have one donated to someone in need – why not? If instead of working at a solely profit-driven company every day, you could spend your time at a company that emphasizes generating profits and doing good – why not?
These scenarios have continuously made it more competitive for businesses to attract customers and employees. For this reason, those who don’t take action now will get left behind.
Next, purpose-driven organizations can see much greater levels of productivity, lower turnover rates, and better talent acquisition because people are motivated by purpose.
According to Conscious Company, inspired employees produce 225% of those merely satisfied. 225 percent! Inspiration comes from serving other people and standing for something beyond typical business operations.
By integrating social impact into a business model, you are creating an opportunity for daily operations to have more meaning in the world at large. As Daniel H. Pink describes in Drive, intrinsic motivation, being motivated by the task at hand and not by the external rewards, can increase creative problem-solving abilities and productivity. Collaboration between organizations and within teams rises as people look to fulfill their purpose beyond profits.
Culture impacts brand. Internal impacts external.
And, of course, brand sees tremendous benefits as organizations express their internal values to their customers and partners. I believe that an organization’s involvement within its community reveals its personal and emotional character. We often forget that people stand behind brands, weakening our emotional connection with that brand. Social impact combats this.
Because people gravitate towards socially impactful shopping opportunities, brands see more sales when doing good. This emotional connection also drives talkability.
As Seth Godin describes in The Purple Cow, the key to driving word-of-mouth marketing is creating “sneezable” content - content that is so extraordinary that people share it and talk about it.
Social impact often resonates highly with people, specifically millennials and Gen Z, that it drives desired WOM marketing.
Social Impact in Action – How to Make Money Doing Good + Key Statistics
Taking it from the soft and emotional side of things, I wanted to understand the real business benefits and statistics behind giving back and having a strong purpose.
After conducting research and interviews with marketing professionals & business owners, I broke down my findings into 4 categories:
- Employee Engagement
Let’s start with brand.
1) Elevate Brand Value
Brand is crucial in shifting consumer behavior. Customers want to know the companies they support are ethical, responsible, and good for the world. Consumers will happily jump to the next brand in such a competitive consumer goods landscape if they don’t align with your brand’s values.
I had the opportunity to speak with Ben Checketts, Creative Director of Rhone, a luxury athletic apparel brand, just a few months ago.
Ben put it quite simply: marketing is about connecting with customers and building brand loyalty. Without loyalty, your biggest fans will happily jump to the next brand. Social impact and giving back is a great way to build that customer loyalty.
Emily Heyward, CoFounder of Red Antler, explains that today, brand is about values. It’s showing customers you’re aligned with them, their core problem, and the things they care about.
Doing good as a business is a tangible representation of values that more consumers are gravitating towards.
- 56% of consumers are willing to pay more for products from brands that demonstrate a commitment to social value. (Nielsen)
- 80% of Americans are likely to switch brands to one that supports a charity. (CONE Cause Evolution Study)
- Brands perceived as having a high positive impact on people’s lives have grown brand value 2.5 times more than brands with low perceived impact. (Millward Brown)
2) Boost eCommerce Growth
Consumers are putting their online shopping dollars where there values are aligned.
Remember checking out on that site that asked you to donate a dollar? I get it; sometimes it’s the only thing standing between you and your brand-new pair of shoes. But your online experience will likely keep you coming back to that shop.
The eCommerce space is becoming more saturated as brands look to launch online. It’s important that you prioritize values on your online store as well to keep that competitive advantage.
Moreover, knowing that your purchase contributes to a social cause pushes engaged consumers to convert.
Lastly, if you’re familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you know that backlinks are super important for your search ranking. Perhaps choosing nonprofit partners who can give backlinks is a strong strategy for SEO.
- Social impact eCommerce donation integrations can increase
- conversion rate by 19%.
- average order value (AOV) by 23%.
- customer lifetime value (LTV) by 18%.
- source: (ShoppingGives)
- Media coverage can generate backlinks and boost SEO (Clickd).
3) Gain Publicity
Next up is publicity.
Social impact and charitable giving form newsworthy, heartwarming stories that encourage people to share.
Leveraging your social impact to drive publicity and brand awareness is an excellent strategy for a startup or small business looking to increase revenue.
Here are a couple of ways to tap into this core benefit:
- Social media
- Influencer marketing
- Media relations & press coverage
- Product donation (donating product will increase its visibility and use)
Learn more about these strategies on our publicity page.
- 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising. (Nielsen)
- 78% would tell others to buy products from a company with a social mission.
- 65% would advocate for issues that company supports.
- (CONE Communications)
4) Engage Employees
Lastly, employees care. Probably more than any other stakeholder. And to put it bluntly, your social impact campaign's authenticity depends on how bought in your team is on your social impact program.
As far as the employee engagements benefits go for social impact in business, I’ll narrow them down into 3 categories:
That’s right. Doing good in your business can heavily impact each of these categories.
To achieve these benefits, try:
- Embedding your social impact program into the culture of your company
- Taking time off to volunteer as a team
- Creating donation match programs
Now for the numbers.
- Inspired employees produce 225% of those merely satisfied.
- Employee donation matching programs decrease turnover by up to 37%. (HRReporter)
- 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. (Sustainable Brands)
Before we delve into social impact strategy, let’s run through a few key definitions.
What is Brand Purpose?
Brand purpose is the why of a brand; it’s an organization’s reason for being beyond profits and it represents the core of the problem that it solves.
An example of a great brand purpose is Lyft’s: to improve people’s lives through the world’s best transportation.”
Lyft embeds this purpose into their for- operations and their social mission called LyftUp. Through their programming, they offer people in need free rides to dialysis, job interviews, and chemotherapy – all perfect examples of improving people’s lives through the world’s best transportation.
What is Mission?
If purpose is the why, mission is the what.
Mission is what the organization does to achieve their purpose.
Let’s take Twice Toothpaste for example. The brand's purpose is to brighten smiles – it’s their why. The brand’s mission is to make safe, clean, and effective toothpaste – that’s their what. It’s the strategy they take to fulfill their purpose.
What is Social Impact?
Social impact is the positive or negative impact of a particular action. At its core, a brand can drive social impact by simply making a product that people love and creating jobs through their business.
The problem then becomes the responsibility these companies have to make products that do not harm their users, the environment, or other stakeholders. Internally it’s important to treat employees equitably and ethically.
With increased consciousness from employees, customers, and investors, social impact in its most basic form is not enough. We’re seeing a huge upswing in companies taking stances on social and environmental issues, donating to nonprofits, volunteering, and implementing internal policies that reflect their increased commitment to their impact on society.
Large businesses are building internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams to manage their programs, and small to medium-sized businesses are hiring Social Impact or Sustainability Managers to oversee their responsibility efforts.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
While most businesses drive impact through their normal operations, corporate social responsibility is about taking a business’s social impact one step further.
According to Investopedia, companies who implement CSR strategies are “conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental.”
Stakeholders are now demanding an increased level of responsibility beyond CSR, pushing forth a framework that’s on the rise – ESG.
What is ESG?
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is an impact framework on the rise for businesses. ESG was pretty popular in finance and is often used to take a deeper look at investments. Now, ESG has made its way into other industries as all stakeholders – investors, employees, and customers included – are looking for a more holistic approach to impact.
ESG is on the rise – be prepared to see it across sectors and industries as corporate responsibility continues to grow.
In short, here is the ESG framework explained:
- Environmental – how does an organization impact the environment? This includes CO2 emissions, energy and water, waste management, and more.
- Social – how does an organization impact its customers, workers, and local communities? This is where corporate giving, volunteering, and connecting with suppliers and communities come in.
- Governance – how does an organization govern its employees and internal team? This includes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), executive pay, reporting, and internal policies.
The ESG framework is a holistic approach to driving impact for businesses. As people continue to demand more from brands and organizations, I believe this approach will continue to pick up steam.
What is Cause Marketing?
While cause marketing could be a form of generating a social impact, they are not the same thing.
Cause marketing is a marketing initiative or campaign that is tied to a cause to increase brand awareness, affinity, or sales. Though cause marketing campaigns can be ongoing, many are one-off projects.
Jump to cause marketing initiative.
What are the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals?
The UN SDGs were brought forth to align businesses, nonprofit organizations, and the government on goals for social and environmental progress. What’s great about the UN SDGs is that it gives smaller campaigns and initiatives a chance to be part of something much bigger.
Check out the 17 goals below.
What is a B Corp?
Credit: B Corporation
Not to be confused with a benefit corporation, B Corp is a certification created by B Lab to hold businesses to specific social and environmental standards. The certification encourages businesses to balance their social purpose and profits.
In B Lab’s words:
“Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.
B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The values and aspirations of the B Corp community are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.”
Learn more about the B Corp Certification.
What is a Benefit Corporation (PBC)?
A public benefit corporation (PBC) is a legal filing option that requires the organization to stay committed to its social or environmental goals, even if the organization is sold to another entity. Some investors do not like this filing because of its legal restrictions, so startups – even those that are mission-driven – typically do not file as a PBC.
Now that we’re aligned on key definitions in social impact, let’s look at business strategies for creating brand purpose and driving social impact.
Creating Brand Purpose
Having a clear brand purpose helps businesses connect with employees, customers, and investors and make important decisions. For example, when expanding a product line, a brand should first check in with their purpose to see if it aligns well with the new products they're looking to offer.
To identify your brand purpose, ask “why?”
A simple method of uncovering purpose is asking What do we do? (mission) followed by Why is that important? 3-5 times.
Here’s an example for a paint company:
- We make colorful, affordable paint.
- That’s because paint adds vibrance to people’s homes.
- That’s important because vibrance makes people happy.
- That’s important because it can help people enjoy their homes even more.
- That’s important because we spend lots of time inside our homes.
End result: This paint company’s purpose is to help people enjoy their homes. How (mission)? Through paint.
Tying it All Together
Look at how we can take this purpose, weave it into the mission, and highlight the value proposition of the company:
- Our purpose is: to help people enjoy their homes.
- We believe that: paint has the power to add vibrance and positive energy to spaces.
- That’s why: we create high-quality, colorful paint at affordable prices.
When in doubt, use this framework:
- Our purpose is:
- We believe that:
- That’s why:
Learn more about creating brand purpose in-depth.
Using Brand Purpose to Guide Social Impact
Now that we have developed this clear understanding of the purpose and mission of the company, social impact can be used to accentuate it. How do you suggest this paint company gives back to the community?
Donating paint to people in need would be a great fit. And the messaging around that campaign could connect directly with their brand purpose.
When someone asks what their motivation behind the donation was, the answer is crystal clear.
Learn more about the intersection of brand purpose & social impact.
The Key to Successful Social Impact: Authenticity
For social impact to have a business impact, you must make sure that it is authentic to your brand, purpose, and values. When a crisis hits, we see tons of businesses “taking stands” on the topic, but it’s hard to differentiate between what’s real and what’s just marketing or PR. At Supur, we use the following 3-step framework for authentic social impact.
1) Address the Needs of Others
While a campaign or initiative might be 100% for marketing purposes, it’s not worthless if it does help other people. Simply, a brand that has no real interest in their cause and writes a check out to a nonprofit is likely driving impact with that donation.
By this rule alone, we’ll see beauty brands donating to soup kitchens – it’s impact, but it’s irrelevant to the brand.
Sometimes these initiatives are inauthentic, but impact is impact.
2) Put in Time and Effort
Writing out a check is not enough. Oftentimes, businesses think that simply finding a random nonprofit and donating is appropriate and impactful. I don’t agree with this approach.
When doing good, it’s important to take a real interest in the cause and research ways to make an impact with your campaign. This starts with finding the right problem to solve, researching and vetting nonprofit partners, and choosing a strategy to best serve the needs of others.
As consumers, we must demand more from brands trying to do good. Impact on the surface often is not impact.
As businesses or brands, we must put in the time and effort it takes to launch a successful social impact campaign.
It’s not easy, and it takes work, but this step is super important. It’ll show your customers and employees that you’re interested in your cause and set the foundation for future engagements with your nonprofit partner.
3) Garner Internal Buy-in
The people putting the program out there must believe in it and care about the project. Beyond keeping the campaign authentic, garnering internal buy-in is a powerful employee engagement strategy.
The hard part is, how?
First, check-in with your brand purpose. Look at your why and think of causes that match your purpose.
Moreover, an effective way for a team to grow interest in your company’s cause is to see it with their own eyes. Setting time aside to volunteer is an effective way to:
- Get your team involved in your social impact program.
- Prove that you’re invested in your cause (enough to take work time off to support it).
Volunteering is a super effective strategy for garnering internal buy-in, and I believe all companies should do so before putting dollars into specific charity.
Another benefit to volunteering is being able to better understand the needs of those you’re looking to help.
Lastly – but most importantly – the brand's leadership must be aligned with the cause and campaign. This makes it easier to push forth something authentic, which would otherwise be nearly impossible. Having to make the business case for social impact every time you want to invest more in the program is challenging and will slow the process down.
From a consumer standpoint, when the leadership backs any social good initiative, it just feels right. When Lyft responded to COVID19, I received an email from their founders about their social impact program. Reading it made me feel like the team was invested in making an impact and my love for the brand grew. Check out their message below.
Tying it All Together – They Can’t Stand Alone
Authentic social impact must have these 3 keys. While you may be driving impact, it’s hard to see the ROI on doing good when it’s not done well.
If campaigns had only one component, this is what they’d look like:
- Only addressing the needs of others: We’ll see tons of cosmetics companies trying to end hunger.
- Only put in time and effort: You’ll ask an employee about their company’s new food insecurity campaign, but they won’t know what to say. They won’t be able to advocate for the cause or come to work with boosted morale because the social impact and marketing teams focused too much time on making an external impact.
- Only has internal buy-in: Your favorite fashion brand will flood a homeless shelter with more useless merchandise because they are passionate about making an impact through clothing. Meanwhile, the shelter is out of storage and now needs a bigger facility – driving their rent up.
One Last Thing: Consistency
The last thing to note about social impact is that you must be consistent in your authenticity. The above 3 steps are how to be authentic on an initiative-by-initiative basis.
In the long term, your initiatives and crisis responses must be consistent, and all match your cause and brand purpose.
Business Models for Social Impact
There are plenty of routes to take your social impact initiatives. For some companies, social impact might look like donating 1% of revenues; for others, it might look like building out technology for good.
I’ll walk you through a few key social impact models deployed by startups, and small- to medium-sized businesses.
Something to note – Startup founders and small business owners tell me all the time that they are not able to be giving back at this stage of their business.
As we go through these social impact models, notice how it does not require a significant amount of funds (beyond startup costs) to pilot these programs.
Actually, many of the following initiatives were launched when the company was founded.
1% of Proceeds
Credit: Pledge 1%
The 1% model requires participating companies to donate 1% of their revenues to nonprofit organizations each year.
This model is perfect for any company looking to give back consistently in an easy, meaningful way. Of course, 1% is only a small fraction of revenue, but it’s a great start.
This model is particularly popular in the tech space as Pledge 1% was founded by tech giants at Salesforce, Atlassian, and Rally, but is becoming increasingly popular in other industries.
To maximize this program’s impact on a business, companies should complement the 1% monetary donations with employee volunteering, cause marketing, and other initiatives. This will help take a small monetary donation to the heart of an organization’s brand purpose and internal culture.
1% of Proceeds Case Study: Harry’s
Harry’s is a young direct-to-consumer men’s care brand. They started with razors but have now expanded their products to shampoo, face wash, and other men’s care accessories.
The brand has taken on the 1% model to stand for men’s mental health and supports initiatives in the following mental health categories:
- Suicide prevention
- Education around mental health
- 24/7 support via text
- Treating military veterans
- LGBTQ Youth
Take a look at Harry’s Impact below.
One-for-One Product Donation
Originally pioneered by TOMS Shoes, the one-for-one model entails donating a product for each one sold.
What’s great about this is that it’s simple and easy for customers to understand. Consumers know that with their purchase they will be providing a product to someone else in need.
The difficulty is that if it’s not already baked into your business model, it’s hard to embed a giving strategy like this. When TOMS did it, they left room in their profit margins to spend on the manufacturing and delivery of an additional product, making it easier to adopt the model.
One-for-One Case Study: Bombas
Bombas applied TOMS’ one-for-one model to the socks industry and has donated over 44 million products to local homeless shelters. The best part about Bombas is that the socks they donate are designed for the people they are giving to. Check this out:
Cause Marketing Initiative
This is a great option for a brand or company looking to do good with minimal commitment. In it’s most basic form, a cause marketing initiative is a short-term campaign tied to a product that benefits a charitable cause.
The problem with this is that it’s hard to see real business benefits when the campaign is so short. It’s super hard to garner internal buy-in for something so temporary and hard to get publicity for a campaign that’s not huge.
But with all things social impact, you get out what you put in. A short-term campaign could be the perfect opportunity to drive impact and elevate your brand without making a huge commitment.
When creating a campaign, you’ll want to be clear with the nonprofit about the agreement. There are three ways to arrange the licensing partnership:
Learn more about these options and which direction to take your cause marketing agreement.
Cause Marketing Initiative Case Study: Madhappy
Madhappy, an LA-based optimistic fashion label, collaborated with AIM Mental Health for a limited-edition collection to benefit the cause. By using their reach, the brand was able to raise money for a mental health charity that resonates with their brand purpose.
Where you source and make your product can have a massive social impact. For this approach, I’m going to highlight two companies that are using their supply chain or production as a force for good.
Supply Chain Case Study: Burlap & Barrel
Burlap & Barrel is a single-origin spice company that works with local farmers and connects them with high-value markets through their DTC business model. With this approach, they are also able to bring the tastiest spices around to their customers.
Supply Chain Case Study: The Giving Keys
Next up is The Giving Keys. As a Los Angeles-based jewelry company, The Giving Keys hires people experiencing homelessness in their community to make inspiring and stunning key necklaces. Through this hiring model, they have created 130 jobs!
Tech Product for Good
A great model for tech startups looking to give back is to create a method of using the core product for good.
Say Uber wanted to use their platform for good in a time when food needed to be delivered to people in need; they could create a place on their platform called “volunteering” where drivers who want to do good can drive for free as part of Uber’s mission. This is just a hypothetical scenario, but here is an example of it in action.
Tech Product for Good Case Study: Airbnb
Airbnb’s Open Homes program allows its users to open up their spaces for free during times of crisis. In times of hurricanes, wildfires, COVID19, or other disasters, Airbnb hosts have the opportunity to take in and house those in need of shelter. Airbnb just launched Airbnb.org, an independent nonprofit that focuses on Airbnb’s impact programs – and their founding story is inspiring.
Finding the Right Nonprofit Partners
Nonprofit partnerships are key to successful social impact initiatives. I remember when I was just breaking into the social impact space; the first thing I did was pull up TOMS’ social impact report to discover how they were able to drive such a massive impact.
The answer? Nonprofit partnerships.
Finding the right nonprofit organizations are not as simple as searching Google and choosing one that looks good or partnering with one that is familiar to you. There are a few key components in partnering with the right organization. Let’s dive in.
Aligning with Brand Purpose
Before anything, you’ll want to ensure that the partner shares the same mission. If it’s not their main purpose, make sure that the programs you will be supporting help you achieve your brand purpose.
For example, a nonprofit with strong alignment to the brand might be Nike and It’s From the Sole, an organization that donates shoes to those in need. Perfect fit.
But sometimes, it makes sense to partner up with an organization because of their network and not because of their mission. Say Nike partnered up with Feeding America to donate shoes to people or charities within their network. Feeding America has little to do with Nike, but the program makes perfect sense.
Learn more about aligning brand narrative and social impact.
Remember: While the organization might not directly align with your mission, a nonprofit’s reach or programs can still be an opportunity to fulfill your brand purpose.
Vetting the Charity
People often make the mistake of supporting an organization before researching their work.
As a brand or company, it is your responsibility to do the due diligence on organizations before recommending them to customers or employees.
Here are a few steps we take to vet an organization when recommending them to clients:
- Ensure that the organization is
- certified 501c3 organization.
- Search IRS database of tax-exempt organizations
- active and continues to help those in need.
- Call the organization’s HQ to discuss their latest projects.
- not religiously affiliated.
- Perform Google searches with specific keywords that may reveal religious affiliation
- transparent with their work.
- Research through guidestar.org, charitynavigator.org, and their websites Read through their form 990 to explore their financial information.
We thank Good Today for their thorough vetting process they were kind enough to make free to the public. See their in-depth process here.
Lastly - high overhead is not always a bad thing. Dan Pallotta has an excellent TED talk on the subject where he explains that overhead allows nonprofits to generate more revenue and impact. Watch it below - it’s one of my favorites!
Nothing tops off a great program like a meaningful story. Here are a few steps to creating powerful copy.
1) Check in with Your Brand Purpose
Take a look back at the program you launched and how it connects with your brand purpose. Be sure to highlight your brand’s values and the impact you drove in the campaign.
2) Measure Impact
Be specific with viewers on the impact you’re driving. I see impact measurement on two sides: quantitative and qualitative.
The quantitative will be a number (dollars, product, etc) tied to an object (program, item, etc). So $10,000 to mental health services for seniors. Then taking that one step further to one-hour session for 100 seniors.
Then the qualitative. How does this actually impact the person?
Here’s where you can explain the impact that a one-hour session had on a senior citizen. Perhaps it’s that they will be calmer and more collected for a week. Try connecting the qualitative to emotion – it resonates with people.
3) Tie to The United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
As I mentioned, the UN SDGs are a great opportunity to tie a small program to a much bigger cause. The mental health services for seniors example could be connected to SDG #3: Good Health & Well-Being.
To tie your programs to the UN SDGs take a close look at the SDGs using their detailed explanations and align your programs accordingly. For sophisticated or company-wide programs (a full ESG program, for example), 5-6 goals is perfect. For a more specific and narrow initiative, 1-3 is appropriate.
Leaders in Social Impact
We’ve covered the why, what, and how. Now let’s go over the who – who are the leaders in the social impact space?
Brands Doing Social Impact Well
For a brand to do social impact well, they must be authentic, consistent, and transparent.
- Authentic: Internal buy-in, driving impact, time & effort.
- Consistent: Deep support of a specific cause. Showing up when needed.
- Transparent: Clear communications around cause – qualitative and quantitative.
In addition to some of the brand’s already highlighted in this article, here are a few more direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to look out for.
As a DTC mattress company, Leesa has put giving back at the forefront of their brand since day 1.
Leesa has implemented the 1 Good Bed Promise to ensure that children experiencing homelessness have comfortable beds to sleep on. To accomplish this, the brand donates 1 mattress for every 10 that they sell.
Leesa does an excellent job explaining the importance of a good night’s sleep, highlighting their social impact program and brand purpose. According to the brand, research shows that children without access to quality sleep:
- 87% more likely to drop out of school
- 69% more likely to struggle with depression
- 4x more likely to attempt suicide
Clearly, Leesa is thorough in their impact and sees mattresses as a means of addressing major social issues at their root causes.
Check out this video:
Who Gives A Crap
In July 2012, co-founders Simon, Jehan, and Danny launched Who Gives A Crap to solve the important issue of sanitation and toilet access.
When they started the brand, 2.4 billion people - 40% of the world’s population - lacked access to a clean toilet. While the number has dropped to 2 billion, over 280,000 children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation.
To combat this urgent issue, the founders baked giving back into their business model.
The Who Gives A Crap team loves toilets for the safety, health, and dignity they provide. Part of a bigger set of WASH initiatives (water, sanitation, hygiene), toilets can save lives, boost economies, and strengthen communities.
By donating 50% of profits, the brand has donated over $4 million to help provide proper sanitation to people in need.
Warby Parker’s Social Impact
Warby Parker virtually pioneered the direct-to-consumer model when looking to get the price of luxury glasses down. Since its founding, the brand has provided eye exams and glasses to people in need globally.
Their program has a direct connection with the product they sell and resonates highly with customers. It is clear that this mission is deeply embedded into their brand.
Lastly, their communications around the program are excellent, including their annual impact report and on-site messaging.
Learn more about Warby Parker’s social impact programs.
There are a few people who pioneered social impact and purpose in business and helped bring it to the forefront of business – in this segment, I’ll highlight a select few.
Blake Mycoskie – Founder of TOMS and the One-for-One Giving Model
A serial entrepreneur, Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS in 2006 when he discovered the need for shoes in Argentina. To combat the issue, Blake founded the one-for-one model, whereby his shoe brand would donate a pair for every pair sold. Back then, this model was crazy but disruptive enough to stand apart from the competition.
Blake Mycoskie’s social impact work created a buzz in the business world around doing more for the world than just making a profit. Brands followed suit by embedding social causes into their business models – many adopting the same one-for-one model.
Carol Cone – “The Mother of Social Purpose”
Currently CEO and Founder of Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, Carol Cone is a CSR and purpose consultant to Fortune 500 companies including Aflac, Microsoft, PNC, and more.
Carol launched Cone Communications in 1980, where she was able to help leading organizations leverage purpose- and cause-related branding to grow. Her consultancy was eventually acquired by Omnicom (NYSE: OMC), and she went on to lead social purpose at Edelman.
Wanting to work with a flatter organizational structure was her inspiration for starting Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, where she built a tight-knit in-house team.
In the words of the CCOP team,
“In her work, she continually brings breakthrough and lasting big ideas to clients to build their business and societal impacts. Early in her career, Cone launched the walking movement with Rockport as its leader, which grew the company three times over in the span of 4 years and led to its acquisition by Reebok. She created the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, which grew to 50 countries around the globe and raised $1 billion. For PNC Financial Services, she identified early childhood education as a key aligned issue, which the company has supported nearly 15 years, uniting them with nonprofit partners including Head Start, Sesame, Donors Choose and tens of local grantees to advance this critical issue.”
Most recently, Carol Cone created My Special Aflac Duck to help Aflac deepen their connection to fighting pediatric cancer. Check out the video!
Carol continues to educate and inspire business leaders through her talks and thought leadership. Below is her talk at Engage For Good’s Annual Conference.
Afdhel Aziz – Founder of Conspiracy of Love
Afdhel Aziz is the Co-Founder of a purpose-driven social impact consultancy called Conspiracy of Love. More recent to the purpose space than Carol Cone, Aziz has been working on his consultancy for just over 4 years now. Before his consultancy, he was a director at Pernod Ricard while promoting his ideas and insights through his book Good Is The New Cool. Co-authored by Bobby Jones, Good Is The New Cool talks about the growth of social impact and purpose in marketing and how companies can use it to grow.
Aziz continues to share his insights through his talks and writing on Forbes.
Max Lenderman – Founder of School
Max Lenderman is the founder and former CEO of School, a Boulder-based purpose consultancy. Max brought corporate social responsibility beyond its typical internal use and into the creative world of advertising.
He’s a big believer that purpose is profit, and profit is purpose.
An advocate for experiential marketing, Max continues to share insights through his teachings at the Denver Ad School and his publications in CAMUS.
We’re lucky to have Max as an advisor at Supur.
Yvon Chouinard - Founder of Patagonia and 1% For The Planet
Founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard pioneered what it means to be an ethical, sustainable, and authentic brand. In building Patagonia, he stayed true to his values and love for nature – this was clear in his hiring, marketing, business, and advocacy initiatives.
Chouinard also founded the 1% For The Planet movement, which encourages businesses to pay their “earth tax” by donating 1 percent of revenues to environmental causes.
Yvon Chouinard also wrote Let My People Go Surfing, where he talks about his business principles.
Supur is a New York City-based social impact consultancy focused on helping businesses develop authentic and meaningful programs that grow the bottom line. We work with partner agencies and independent strategists to help drive real business value that help organizations see ROI on their do-good efforts.