I don’t believe you can start a brand in this day and age without thinking about what you want to give back, and the legacy you want to leave.
‘Corporate social responsibility’ can often be bandied about without tangible meaning, to either the internal team or customers. However, more and more brands are making giving back a core pillar of their values and mindset. It’s tough enough starting a food brand, raising capital, and getting the product and branding on point, but the start line is also the time to commit to its social core.
Millennials are very much behind a growing awareness of capitalism-with-a-conscience and, through social media, can engage instantly with brands and their values. Some incredible brands have paved the way, from better known ones such as Innocent drinks’ campaign with Age UK, to smaller known brands like Snact, which makes healthy fruit snacks from surplus produce.
Knowing you want to be an ethical company is the easy part, it is working out a way to implement policies that become intrinsic to how the company does business and talks to customers that takes more thought. Do you give a percentage of profits to a charity, set up your own foundation, or do you team up with a charity for certain products? What seems to work best is being authentic. Customers want to connect with what you are trying to do.
Having a social DNA doesn’t stop with a mechanism for giving back and picking a cause to support though. It needs to run through how you source products, what your brand values are, how and who you hire (are their beliefs in line with the brand’s?), how you support and develop your team. It’s even down to how your office eats lunch.
While ever more brands are developing strong, multifaceted CSR strategies, for many it is still often just a bolt-on. All those thinking of starting something new should make the social pillar a key part of initial business plans and discussions with potential investors. With a growing number of consumers buying into and engaging with the ethics and personality of a brand, can they afford not to?
Cat Gazzoli is founder of Piccolo