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Why Corporate Social Responsibility Matters for DTC Brands

As new and loyal customers alike look for and demand ethical behavior and social responsibility from their favorite stores, it is imperative that brands step up and support a cause that is important to them and their customers.

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In 2006, the shoe brand Toms “One for One” charitable giving initiative pioneered the modern corporate giving trend. Although Toms no longer donates one pair of shoes for every pair sold as of 2019, younger consumers continue to expect and demand corporate responsibility, charitable giving and social justice initiatives. Over 75% of Gen Z participants in a recent study said they would stop buying from a brand and sharing their campaigns if they deemed them to be macho, racist or homophobic.

Since Millennials and Gen Z so deeply value authenticity and loyalty, how do eCommerce brands deliver on these expectations and demonstrate commitment to these consumers to win their business and keep them coming back? And, which brands are leading the charge today? What can other DTC brands learn from their experience?

What Gen Z and Millennials Expect from DTC Brands

The ongoing pandemic has caused many consumers to rethink their purchasing behavior: 80% are changing the way they shop, 60% are visiting brick and mortar stores less frequently than before early 2020 and 43% shop online more regularly. However, how customers buy products is not the only significant change in purchasing behavior. Consumers are also rethinking where they spend their money. A reported 94% of Millennials indicated they would buy from a company with an excellent corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Even more striking, 84% of Millennials say they would give companies with an excellent CSR program the benefit of the doubt in the event of a crisis.

What Millennials expect from brands is only accelerated by Gen Z shoppers, who are rapidly increasing their buying power. Gen Z shoppers want to support brands that support environmental causes, racial and gender equity and socially significant issues. Brands that clearly communicate social awareness and initiatives have the advantage.

What to Learn from Brands with Successful CSR Programs

For DTC brands, the secret to a successful CSR program is authenticity. The championed cause should connect to the product and align with the brand’s vision and story. Consumers connect with CSR programs that help them feel like they are a part of giving back. Choosing the right cause and an appropriate method for distribution is critical.

A photo of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah taken from a distance. Scrub brush dominates the foreground
Bears Ears National Monument

Patagonia and Environmental Activism

Patagonia has long been known for advocating for protecting public lands. In 2017, they took it one step further by creating a series of videos highlighting their support for the Bears Ears Monument in Utah. The brand also changed the front page of its website and launched a campaign to protect the monument. They put their money where their mouth is and it has paid off. Sales have quadrupled in the past decade.

Spanx and Women’s Empowerment

Recently, Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx, was in the headlines for her gift of $10,000 and 2 plane tickets for every employee. But, her personal mission is women’s empowerment. A portion of Spanx’s sales goes toward women-owned businesses and initiatives that elevate women across the globe. The Leg Up initiative features women-owned businesses on Spanx’s website and catalogs and offers funding and business support for women entrepreneurs. Beyond just Spanx’s profits, Blakely herself has pledged to donate half of her wealth to philanthropic causes.

DTC brands looking to connect with younger generations should think big with their corporate sustainability and giving campaigns. Instead of thinking of these initiatives as one-and-done projects, they should be carefully planned and integrated into a brand’s identity. DTC brands, in particular, have a unique opportunity to connect with consumers one to one and can leverage that relationship to champion causes that matter to their core customers. 

Demonstrating social responsibility is one of the best ways to connect with your audience. Creating unique, can’t-miss eCommerce experiences for customers and employees is another. Talk to a Scalefast eCommerce expert to find out how to take your business further. 

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