Corporate Social Responsibility in the E-Commerce Age

For e-commerce businesses, taking on corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be a major advantage in the market. Typically, CSR is associated with larger companies but this is starting to diminish and smaller online businesses are emerging as winners in more ways than one.

General Manager Digital Retail Woolworths Food Group at Woolworths LimitedCorporate social responsibility is a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns into its business operations and strategy.

In a recent survey by Nielsen, 56 percent of international online shoppers said they are willing to pay more for a product or service from businesses that make a positive social or environmental impact.

In another study by Conecomme, 90 percent of those surveyed indicated they expect companies to do more than just make a profit. In that same survey, 84 percent of respondents advised they seek out responsible products when they can, and 80 percent take a company’s corporate social responsibility into consideration when making their purchasing decisions.

Consumers are voting with their wallets and they’re telling us that ethics are an important part of their decision to buy.

Many e-commerce businesses today are blurring the lines between making a profit online and doing some good during its business operations. Having a positive social purpose that resonates with your target market can be a key differentiator for your online business. It seems that in today’s e-commerce world, doing more purposeful activities for the greater good actually leads to being more profitable.

Remember, a business can still focus on its core retail operations and profits while also making a difference. Take for instance US e-commerce businesses TOMS and Bombas, or Australian fashion brands Camilla and Decjuba. These companies are empowering social change in their daily business activities.

TOMS Shoes is an iconic example, and from a marketing standpoint its business model is a winner. The online men’s shoe retailer is renowned for utilising consumer word of mouth as part of its advertising and philanthropy plays a major part in this. The brand operates on its trademarked One-for-One donation policy. TOMS Shoes matches every pair of shoes its sells, by donating a new pair of shoes to a child in need. The online retailer has now given away over 60 million pairs of shoes to children in need in over 70 countries.

What began as a simple idea has evolved into a powerful business model that now also helps address greater needs like advanced health, education and economic opportunity for underprivileged children and their communities around the world.

corporate social responsibilioty e-commerce toms shoes

Bombas – the New York based online startup is looking to revolutionise the sock industry by asserting its feel good message of pushing yourself to “Bee Better.” Two years ago, company founders Randy Goldberg and David Heath decided to create an online business based on the same business model as TOMS Shoes, One-for-One, after learning that socks were the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters.

Bombas is the latin word for bumblebee – Heath says its “Bee Better” mantra is the most important part of the company’s brand, so they decided to stitch this into each sock to remind its consumers to be better in everyday life, be it in fitness pursuits, or as a reminder that someone in need was helped by purchasing the sock. Bombas operates on Shopify and while they look and operate like many other e-commerce stores, they happened to have given away over one million pairs of socks at the same time.

corporate social responsibilioty e-commerce bombas bee better

In Australia brands like Ninewest, Camilla and Decjuba have partnered with online social enterprise i=Change, weaving corporate philanthropy into consumers everyday purchases. These and other labels have partnered with i=Change to integrate its donation platform onto their online stores as part of the purchase and payment process, allowing consumers to make a donation at checkout (if they wish to). The platform also enables customers to select from a range of charities and choose where they would like to send their donation.

corporate social responsibility e-commerce camilla

corporate social responsibility e-commerce camillaCompanies that demonstrate concern for employee welfare, environmental sustainability, community development and human rights are getting more support from consumers. Take Woolworths as another example.

Woolworths Group recently launched its new Corporate Responsibility Strategy 2020 earlier this month, which identifies 20 corporate responsibility and sustainability goals, including gender equality, no salary wage gap, embracing diversity and working towards zero food waste going to landfill.

“We are passionate about the opportunity we have to do the right thing. Every Woolworths team member knows that they have a role to play in achieving these commitments,” says Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci.

corporate social responsibilioty e-commerce woolworths brad banducci

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci

The strategy uses Woolworths’ Corporate Responsibility framework of People, Planet, Prosperity, which the company first introduced in 2015.

As part of its Corporate Responsibility Strategy 2020, Woolworths will report regularly on the progress it’s making towards these goals and commitments.  “While we are excited by what the future holds, we are clear that we should be judged not by what we say we will do, but by what we actually do. This is how we will hold ourselves accountable,” says Banducci.

On another note, Woolworths took out Power Retail’s All Star Bash “Top Retailer” award last week, which also celebrated the launch of the The 2017 E-Commerce Leaders Playbook, where the retailer came number one in the long awaited Top 100 list.

“This is fantastic. Thank you. We didn’t expect this at all,” said Kate Langford, general manager of digital retail at Woolworths Limited who accepted the award with her team on the night.


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