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The growth of corporate social responsibility

Wednesday 6th March

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business model that enables a company to have a greater sense of awareness of the impact they impose socially, legally, economically and environmentally. To engage in CSR means that a company is operating in ways that enhance society and the environment. In recent years CSR has shown a heightened amount of interest; a growing conscious millennial audience are at the core of this movement and have become the driving force behind pressuring companies to become more accountable for their actions.

A rise in ethical consumerism has also contributed with consumers now reflecting this in their purchasing decisions. Another influencing factor of this is reputational risks associated with not complying with these pressures, forcing large firms to invest in CSR to ensure they align with social and environmental norms.


CSR and consumers

From a branding perspective, companies should be aiming to align their values with the consumer’s personal values through CSR. A long standing psychological theory called The Balance Theory states that relationships are built through creating an overlap between ourselves and others. We know from academic research that this is also true with our relationship with brands. To strive for balance, we choose to be associated with brands that are ‘like us’. Therefore, it makes sense that if a brand and a consumer share the same perceived values, the consumer will have a positive perception of the brand and verse visa. Millenials are especially affected by this, with 81% stating their favourite brands have shared values. To emphasise this, 59% saying that would stop shopping at a company that supports issues they disagree with.


CSR and trust

Aligning personal and brand values also makes it easier to initiate the trust building process; something companies strive for is to develop and sustain strong, long-term profitable relationships. In today’s digital age where a lot of businesses are purely online, trust is often difficult to achieve. Take Airbnb as an example; trust is a key prerequisite to sales as two strangers are unlikely to engage in a monetary transaction online without trusting one another. Airbnb have invested a lot into CSR to prove to consumers that they are a trustworthy and personable company.


This could also be said to be true about businesses new to the market, it is important to establish meaningful brand values to gain trust and provide a point of differentiation and create a competitive advantage.


CSR examples


A recent example includes Ikea celebrating the launch of their new Greenwich store by creating ‘The Good Ship’ a remote controlled boat, which is currently floating around the Thames hoovering up around 20kg of rubbish per hour.


LUSH are known for their business model of sustainability and ethics and share these strong values with their consumer base who they have a strong relationships with.  80% of their products are without packaging and they work with the communities they source products from. They also have a product in which 100% of the proceeds go towards charity.




TOM’s is well known for being charitable, for every shoe they sell they donate a pair of shoes to someone in need. They also partner with non-profits and help to build businesses in developing counties.


Other examples include coffee shops providing rewards for those who bring their own reusable cup. Plastic straws have also become somewhat rejected by social norms reflecting shifting attitudes.

Article Written by

Laura Newton

Graduate Trainee, Total Media

After studying Marketing Communications at Bournemouth University, Laura joined our Grad scheme for a year and is now an account executive on the broadcast team.

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