Consumers have spoken - when it comes to making a true and lasting difference in the world, they say look not outside, but within. In the recently launched 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study, consumers prioritized changing operations as the leading way for companies to address social and environmental issues (31%), trumping traditional approaches like making donations (7%) and raising awareness (11%). These ubiquitous strategies were even beat out by applying unique assets (19%) and developing new products and services (16%).
Companies are already making headway in applying their business acumen for greater change. Akhila Vijayaraghavan of Triple Pundit notes that General Motors has taken steps to innovate its business model by incorporating nontraditional materials in its manufacturing processes. Recycled and bio-based components, such as old bumpers, bottles, carpets and blue jeans, are making their way into GM vehicles, which has in part attributed to GM's 97 percent waste recycling rate.
Glad Products Company is meeting consumers' expectations to reinvent its products by launching a garbage bag that uses 6.5 percent less plastic than traditional bags. It may seem like a small feat, but in just one year Glad Products will see a 6.5 million pound reduction in plastic use.
Today's savvy consumers see that companies must address social and environmental matters from the inside-out, and companies can start by working to innovate operations. While it's apparent companies are most eager to address material environmental issues, companies should look beyond the environment and use their core competencies to solve for a variety of social ills, from health and disease to education. Consider TOMS, who just added a new one-to-one product line, promising the gift of sight for each pair of glasses sold.
The incentive for listening to consumers? It's not just social progress; it's a boost to the bottom line. When companies act on the approaches consumers find most critical, consumers state they are very likely to reward them with higher trust (57%), loyalty (52%) and purchasing power (53%).
What other companies are going one-step beyond donations to address social and environmental issues?