Neither should be an afterthought, not if you want to excel in today’s marketplace! Consumers are becoming more and more aware and attached to the idea that they (directly or indirectly) are making a difference in the world. That’s why a brand purpose strongly linked with corporate social responsibility is important, because we are in the middle of a major shift in the way customers connect with brands.

This means that values are becoming as important as functional benefits. A point of view (or a vision for a specific problem to resolve) is equally as important as a point of difference. Strengthening and creating communities will be as important as reaching mass audiences. Real, meaningful corporate actions are becoming paramount to constructing genuine relationships with current and possible consumers.

A company’s social purpose has to resonate with its core business. This means that it has to relate to all aspects of the company (sourcing, manufacturing, supply-chain, final consumer, etc.), as well as all the people the company interacts with, whether they are customers, workers or shareholders.

Corporate social responsibility goes hand-in-hand with an effective brand strategy. As we know, consumers talk through their wallets, and it is becoming obvious that the majority of consumers are supporting companies that genuinely concern themselves with human and animal rights, the environment and social development.

As customers become more informed about manufacturing processes, and the environmental and social costs of “doing business”, they are seeing that THEY can make a difference by supporting socially responsible companies!

While corporate social responsibility sounds scary, and like something only possible if you have a Walton family sized fortune, don’t fear! Smaller businesses can do it, too.

The idea is not to rush into a program that is not sustainable for your company; start small and grow your CSR program with time. Every little bit helps, and the program should realistically align with the size of your company and its ability to give back to the community.

Find the right partners (an already-established non-profit, etc.), or look into making an in-kind or percentage donation with every purchase, etc.

There are lots of options, you just need to find the ones that are right for your company and the causes that are near and dear to your company’s mission (and your heart). Check out this list of companies that are doing good in the world to inspire you.