Corporate social responsibility made the leap in 2013 from being a “do good” corporate responsibility to a best practice for growing profits. During 2013 my articles on TriplePundit profiled businesses and business leaders that successfully won customers and cut costs by making a difference. In 2013, the top five CSR profit-making best practices were:
- Selling affordable, good food
- Winning customers with trustworthy behavior
- Turning trash into cash
- Gaining competitive advantage by deploying clean technologies
- Hiring women leaders
Here are some examples.
Good affordable food wins
The fast food industry is in a revenue crisis because fifty-five percent of consumers think vendors are selling unhealthy food at increasing prices. The big chain restaurants that have based their customer value proposition on value meals are having their market share eaten by restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread - chains that offer healthier, tasty and affordable food. They are also losing customers to local restaurants run by entrepreneurs who sell affordable, locally sourced food, and attract millennial generation customers through taste diversity and moms seeking diet solutions for their loved ones. My articles on this food industry revolution included:
Business case studies I wrote this year included two successful Mexican restaurants, one in Tulsa and the other in Berkeley, California. Both restaurants are winning customers by selling locally produced and organic foods at affordable prices. Another case study featured a catering business that has won some of the world’s largest corporate clients because of their ability to conduct zero waste events and a bakery that is maintaining costs by reducing their waste stream.
Winning customers by being a trustworthy brand
Pioneering market research by Ford found that trust was the key brand characteristic sought by customers. Price, especially in today’s economy with a financially struggling middle class, is still key to attracting customer interest. But tellingly, authenticity now carries a comparable level of importance in the consumer’s decision-making process. Customers want it all. They want competitive prices but they also want to buy products that solve “in me, on me and around me” problems. The best marketing practices for winning customers I profiled in 2013 were:
- Exclusive interviews with Ford’s Chairmen Bill Ford and CEO Alan Mulally on the key role sustainability has played in their record breaking 2013 sales success.
- A unique business case study of a hotel’s owner, general manager and restaurant chief chef on how they have made sustainability the lynchpin of their brand identity and success in winning customers.
- A pioneering interview with Havas Media’s Global Head of Data Insights on how to create “meaningful brands” that are smarter, wiser, fitter, tougher and closer.
- A two-part series profiling Unilever’s revenue growth success based upon their Sustainable Living business strategy. The first article profiles CEO Paul Polman’s success in growing his company’s share prices by increasing the company’s sustainability performance. The second article was an exclusive interview with a Unilever marketing executive on ten sustainable marketing best practices and how the deployment of these best practices drove the creation of a YouTube video called Sketches that has generated over three million views.
- A favorite interview of mine was with Rainforest Alliance President Tensie Whelan where she profiled the branding of Rainforest Alliance certified products under the marketing banner “Buy the frog.” Companies that have adopted this branding are winning double-digit revenue growth!
Turning trash into cash
Sustainability is now a best practice for cutting costs. Sustainable waste management is generating cost-cutting competitive advantage for businesses ranging from Walmart to Dupont to small businesses like JJH Auto Body and Paint in Salt Lake City. This year I profiled General Motor’s waste management best practices that are generating one billion dollars per year through recycling and repurposing of GM’s waste streams.
These same sustainable best practices are reshaping building operations. I profiled the growing best practices in building design that holds the potential of achieving Zero Net Energy homes and buildings.
During 2013 clean technologies made the leap from being an investment promise funded by angel investors into an implmentation path used by businesses to win competitive advantage. I wrote an article series on how cleantech is reshaping the real estate and electric utility industries.
Cleantech is also reshaping our automobiles. In 2013 our new cars set record highs for fuel efficiency while also delivering on performance and a positive driver experience. In my test drive of the Ford C-Max electric hybrid I found it to be interactive, fun, affordable and fuel efficient. I also reported on how electrification is being engineered into business delivery vans to deliver lower fuel costs, maintenance and emissions. I conducded an exclusive interview with Ford’s Global Electric Fleet Manager Julie D’Annunzlo on the four stages of vehicle electrification that will soon be in all our cars and commercial vehicles.
Grow profits by hiring women leaders
2013 proved again that there is a statistically significant correlation between the profitability of a company and the number of women in leadership roles including serving as board of directors. Research shows that a best practice for achieving superior profitability includes growing and adding women leaders! My exclusive interview with Kellie McElhaney from the Haas School of Business outlined the business case for hiring women leaders. It was one of my most viewed articles in 2013 with over 600 tweets. Reading the article and watching her video interview is a top choice for starting toward a more profitable 2014.
Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017