Eighty-four percent of Americans hold companies accountable for producing and communicating the results of CSR commitments, according to the 2012 Cone Communications Corporate Social Return Trend Tracker, and companies are starting to take notice. As the social impact space becomes more saturated, leading companies are standing out by doing more than claiming purpose – they're reporting their impacts.
More than two years ago, we first reported on a Starbucks campaign called "Create Jobs for USA," an effort targeting economic development in the U.S. through small business loans in partnership with the Opportunity Finance Network. Now, Starbucks has released a 20-page document entitled "Six Lessons Learned from Create Jobs for USA," detailing a number of metrics, including public interest and awareness, donations, how funds were distributed and net jobs benefits. Among those reported measurements, the campaign raised more than $15 million with $3.5 million from individual donors and another $1 million from the sales of the "Create Jobs for USA" bracelets and other "Indivisible" products. The "Six Lessons" document also outlines the amount, type and regional location of capital grants awarded to Community Development Financial Institutions through the program. What's truly interesting about the report is that it goes beyond just reporting results; it also synthesizes this data into six key takeaways for readers based on the triumphs and challenges of the effort.
With only 25 percent of Americans believing they made a significant positive impact through their purchase of a product supporting a social or environmental issue, it's no longer enough to have a compelling message when developing campaigns. Companies must now report on successes, both throughout the life of the campaign and at its conclusion in order to gain consumer trust and brand affinity. For those brands that don't follow through on communicating these metrics, consumers will be left wondering whether their money or time really helped make a difference.