When considering corporate social responsibility, many companies tend to look at it with a front-end perspective. The attitude in large is that, “I’ve done everything up to X point, and now it’s hands off for me.” Companies, who take on such a view aren’t necessarily in the wrong. The fact that they are considering sustainability puts them above a large number of businesses.
However, to get to the next level of business sustainability, it’s necessary to consider what the consumer will do with the product after the sale.
The truth is despite the recent popularity of CSR, many businesses fail to consider CSR policies for after the sale. This can be because doing so is too expensive or impractical, but at its worst, it can mean a firm’s CSR policy is little more than a marketing “hook” to get you to buy something.
In an age where businesses are increasingly expected to do more than just generate profits, firms need to realize CSR isn’t just a onetime process — it should pervade a product’s entire life cycle, including the part that comes after the product is actually sold.
Here are a few ways companies can get post-sale CSR right and leave eco-conscious consumers happier.
Create a Clear Standard and Stick To It
A CSR-oriented product should not only aim to satisfy consumers’ desires for sustainability but also educate them about what their purchase really means. For example, Starbucks, an early pioneer of fair trade coffee, is behind CAFÉ Practices, which lays out clear guidelines for ethically sourced coffee from third parties and was developed with Conservation International.
Establishing such standards makes Starbucks’ CSR much more believable, since it has a real policy backing it up. Moreover, these practices also raise awareness about the importance of ethically sourced goods.
Make Waste Disposal Sustainable
This should be an obvious one, but too few companies make good use of it. It’s no secret our planet’s landfills and oceans are quickly being filled up by millions of tons of waste every year, with much of it coming from packaging like plastic bags, cups, takeout boxes and gift wrap.
It should be a no-brainer. Every company producing goods for the mass-market that claims to uphold CSR policies should make its products easily disposable, recyclable and ideally reusable.
There are a number of ways to do this. For one, packaging should be minimal and, if used at all, biodegradable. From bottled water to doggie poop bags, companies are seeing more and more products can be useful in their afterlife rather than simply decomposing in a landfill. To be especially creative, you can even make packaging for some things edible, like for these cupcakes.
However, this doesn’t mean only the most obvious products we use on a daily basis should be eco-friendly in their afterlife. Bigger firms — like those in the construction industry — are looking at their products’ afterlives as well. There are even a surprising number of ways to dispose of doors — yes, those big rectangles you open to get into your house — in an environmentally-conscious manner. Clopay offers information on its website about proper disposal guidelines, which is a great way to educate their customers on sustainable disposal practices.
Enhance Customer Loyalty, Making Every Purchase Count
Another way to make sure CSR policies last beyond the point of sale is to induce consumers to buy more of the product by making a simple commitment for every product that is bought. That may sound complicated and expensive, but it has made fortunes for many companies that have become iconic for their use of this strategy.
Toms' One for One program, which donates one pair of shoes for every pair you buy, is perhaps the most famous CSR policy in the world. But there are many others that have followed suit. Eyeglasses maker Warby Parker, for example, donates a pair for every one bought as well. Not only do such policies produce a socially sound outcome, they also are key to building customer loyalty.
There is substantial market research that shows if a person does something that helps the planet or a person in need, it produces a feel-good “high” of sorts. In many cases, that means consumers feeling that high will want it again soon.
CSR Isn’t Just For Brochures
In the end, it’s a no-brainer why CSR is consistently rated as one of the most important things a business can do. Indeed, 81 percent of them say they will make some personal sacrifices to make a difference, and with the rise of the sustainability movement, that number is likely to go up. It’s thus essential companies have a truly integrated CSR policy that doesn’t just end at the point of sale but keeps on going, creating a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone.