10/30/2014 05:43 EDT | Updated 12/30/2014 05:59 EST

How Your Company Can Close the Gap Between Social Responsibility and Products

Has your company made efforts to be a more socially responsible, green corporate citizen, yet reaped little results in terms of more customers buying from you or attracting quality employees who want to work with you?

There seems to be a gap between consumers' desires to buy from socially responsible companies and their actual purchasing actions. What is the explanation for this gap and how can you close it?

Here are some facts. About 83 per cent of consumers worldwide say they would rather buy from a company (or work for a company) that is socially responsible and green, and 60 per cent of employees said they would leave a company if they weren't socially responsible. If these statistics are correct, why aren't more of these conscientious consumers buying from these companies? It turns out that 60 per cent of consumers said they're confused as to whether a company is in fact socially responsible and 25 per cent said they don't believe the marketing claims companies make in this regard.

The question is, how can you win over those 83 per cent that want to buy from a socially responsible company? How can you take away the confusion from the 60 per cent and gain the trust of the 25 per cent that are doubters?

Here are three things that can make a huge difference.

1. Get third party certifications. Soon you will be able to go into any store and scan a product with your smart phone and get instant ratings on things like social responsibility, child labor, employee satisfaction, environmental efforts, etc. Even now, all over the world, companies are starting programs with third party certifications. This is the wave of the future so rather than waiting, be ahead of the curve and start your own third party certification process. Remember, people tend to believe what others say about a product or company, rather than what a company says about itself. Third party certifications add credibility and remove mistrust and confusion. Unilever helped created a sustainable seafood certification before it was being demanded by consumers and gained great advantage.

2. Your best brand ambassadors are your employees. Consumers are far more likely to believe people who work for the company, than any advertising. Your people are your best advocates so it behooves any organization to work just as hard to sell the story to its own people than with external marketing initiatives to its customers. Make sure every team member knows your "good citizen" story and believes it enough to speak to it.

3. Make conscious efforts to show consumers the good things you are doing. Demonstrate in tangible ways that your company is committed to doing good in the world. For example, if you're in the food service industry, don't automatically put a straw in a customer's drink. Tell them you'll provide a straw only upon request because it's your company policy to lessen the impact on the environment. Then out a note on the table explaining why you did it. If you do something good, let customers see it. Customers consistently say they want companies to make it "easy" for them to do the right thing.

There is a major opportunity for truly sustainable companies to cater to that 83 per cent of consumers who want to buy from socially responsible companies but you must first close the gap. And since most companies are trying to close that gap with advertising which only convinces 25 per cent of that 83 per cent, implementing the three strategies listed will give you the competitive advantage.

So will you take the challenge? What measures can you take to close the gap? What stories can you tell? We'd love to join you in this conversation so feel free to send us your feedback to and ideas to


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