Profit and Principle: The Bottom Line Value of Corporate Social Responsibility

Social responsibility should be inherent in a company’s objective strategy, however, without bottom line concerns, social responsibility cannot be implemented.

The market has become oversaturated with the flood of company messages touting the hottest, the best, the newest, or even the cheapest. This has lessened the effectiveness of traditional marketing efforts and worn-out the audiences they are aimed at. Today, it isn’t enough just to send a press release to get your organization noticed. With the competition for share of voice so great, it’s crucial that you set yourself apart. Thus, customers preferences and behaviors have evolved. Generally, they wanted to align themselves with companies they admired and respected. They preferred a better relationship with the brand and what it stood for. So, marketers need to develop a clear, concise vision that is not solely for corporate agenda, but on a wider scope. The promising industry known as corporate social responsibility – or CSR … is now seen as a vital tool in promoting and improving the public image of some of the world’s largest companies and corporations.

Corporate social responsibility, also referred to as corporate stewardship or corporate citizenship, has become increasingly important to companies competing in today’s business climate. CSR is becoming a best bet alternative to stand out from the pack and forms an instant relationship with customers. It is an avenue in which companies can realize the value of their brands, build good will, and establish lasting impressions with their customers. Brands like The Body Shop have made social commitments a fundamental component of their corporate mission, personality, organizational identity, and reputation. This mind-set is reflected in their marketing efforts and has resulted in a stronger brand reputation, a universal sense of corporate good will, and increased revenues. Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop took the cosmetics industry by storm and forged a popular icon of socially responsible business . This company becomes the case studies of relationship between the brand and its role in the society. It enjoys being the front liner in the debate on social marketing around the globe. What makes this brand the icon of social marketing?profit-principle2

The weight of public relations is tremendous. When a company performs philanthropy, people are impressed and it contributes to the overall image. Thus, sales of products and/or services can only increase as expected. When The Body Shop decided to use simple, natural ingredients harvested without harm to the environment, and for the benefit of indigenous people, business escalated. Despite the absence of advertising exposures, the image of third world sensibility proved advantageous. In contrast to other personal care products, The Body Shop has the least advertising exposures for the simple reason the founder believe that products become more expensive due to its packaging and marketing promotions (thus, limiting availability to consumers who want to experience it). What more important to this company are the quality of the products, availability, and everybody can experience the pleasure of wellbeing. The bottles (which is considered as one of the main attractions) are too modest for cosmetics, and to top it all it introduced the notion of recycling. “The frugality that my mother exercised during the war years made me question retail conventions. Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use? We behaved as she did in the Second World War, we reused everything, we refilled everything and we recycled all we could,” shares Roddick in her website ( about her and The Body Shop. Thus, foundation of the business environmental activism was born out of ideas like these. The Body introduced the 3R (Reuse, Refill, Recycle) campaign in all stores. What makes this brand stand out is the campaign for women in general, loving your body as the way it is . . . unlike the increasing views of women who are too focused on seeing beauty as anorexic figure, rather than self-esteem and self- confidence. In short, the brand helps promote the beauty in different angle. And that is embracing pleasure of caring for your bodies regardless of who you are, and what you are.

The Body Shop embraces not just social values concerning its main target audience – women – it embraces social concerns as a whole. The company is an extension of Roddick’s passionate concern not just for women, but for the world, environment, for her employees, and for the communities within which The Body Shop is located. In return, that passion evokes passionate support from customers. “Businesses have the power to do good. That’s why The Body Shop’s Mission Statement opens with the overriding commitment, ‘To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.’ We use our stores and our products to help communicate human rights and environmental issues,” quoted Roddick. The Body Shop exhibits a great force for positive social and environmental change through its lobbying and campaigning programs around its five core principles: Protect Our Planet, Defend Human Rights, Support Community Trade, Activate Self-Esteem, and Against Animal Testing. These principles form the basis of campaigns and community programs, as well as the ethical policies and guidelines of the company.·

  • Protect our Planet
    In 2002, The Body Shop ran a global campaign with Greenpeace International ‘Choose Positive Energy.’ The campaign tackled the issue of global warming and the pressing need for world leaders to promote and invest in the use of renewable energy. The campaign petition of 1.6 million signatures was presented at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. It furthered the commitment to environmental sustainability through investment in renewable energy, funding of energy efficiency projects in the developing world, and incorporating a proportion of recycled plastic (post consumer recyclate) into all packaging
  • Defend Human Rights
    Among the founding companies of the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights (BLIHR). This initiative was founded in 2003 to help lead and develop practical company responses to the human rights issues facing international business.
  • Support Community Trade
    The community trade program is based on fair trade principles. Its objective is to make a positive economic and social difference within individual communities, in return for natural ingredients and handcrafted accessories. The program works with 36 community based suppliers of raw ingredients and accessories in 23 countries.
  • Activate Self Esteem
    Working with leading organizations in the provision of support and services, the company have joined their effort to ‘Stop Violence in the Home’. The Body Shop has already established a strong reputation on the domestic violence issue through campaigns in Canada, the USA, the UK, West Malaysia and the Philippines.
  • Against Animal Testing
    The Body Shop was the first company to be certified against the Humane Cosmetics Standard, which attests to the effectiveness of our Against Animal Testing Policy and the monitoring processes that underpin this.

It is true that putting a caring face first, companies are discovering the commercial benefits of being seen as socially responsible, but their activities must be in tune with their brands, otherwise, consumers are not convinced. Remember, the customers support you because of your common goals, and whatever your choice (being environmental-friendly, or humanitarian advocacy), you have to play it by heart. Social responsibility should start from the inside of the company’s activities. Just like The Body Shop, it starts from belief in the company’s core values. It pervades the organization until eventually, it profoundly influences the corporate culture. You can’t be a wife-beater if you’re a The Body Shop employee (a company, which supports human rights), and you’re also expected to attend tree-planting sessions every year (they’re also an environment-friendly organization). And these are all hidden from the media. No tarpaulins or any non-biodegradables in all merchandising displays, despite the high cost of biodegrable materials. And you can see the result . . . The Body Shop is synonymous to social marketing. The Body Shop is social marketing.

No wonder, with the success of The Body Shop in this category, companies are beginning to explore this area of marketing. But other regard this as an accessory to its marketing communications. CSR should not be an optional ‘add-on’ to business core activities —but about the way in which businesses are managed. Social responsibility should be inherent in a company’s objective strategy, and to aid the well being of society. However, without bottom line concerns, social responsibility cannot be implemented. Make a profit first before you can contribute to a society in dyer need. Hence, when the business entity is profiting, social integrity can be regarded as preeminent concern. The Body Shop core values inform the way that they do business. They are entirely consistent with strong and sustained financial performance, and that profits and principles must be achieved in order to sustain the long-term future of the company.

[published in AD EDGE, May 2006]






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