To effectively reach customers and prospects, marketing departments across all industries employ the four elements of the marketing mix: product, price, promotion and place. Corporate social responsibility is a concept that fits throughout the marketing mix and shows that businesses are making a positive impact on society and the environment. Socially responsible programs primarily incorporate community service, environmental sustainability and ethical behavior.
Marketing departments are responsible for implementing campaigns that consider all elements of the marketing mix. From creating email newsletters announcing new products and services to sponsoring trade shows that facilitate new business opportunities, marketing activities are meant to generate publicity and bring buyers and sellers together to create sales. Corporate social responsibility permeates all layers of the marketing mix by determining how, when and where these marketing activities are produced. For example, organizations may decide to produce digital sales collateral to save paper and help reduce waste. Retail organizations may purchase fair-trade materials from factories that create healthy and safe working conditions for employees. From production to distribution, corporate responsibility can be interwoven throughout the entire marketing lifecycle.
Different types of corporate socially responsible programs are categorized based on their social, economic and environmental impact. All three interrelate and affect one another within standard business models. Socially, companies can become active in surrounding communities by sponsoring local events such as benefit walks or educational initiatives for schools. Instituting economic practices that protect workers’ rights, condone child labor or uphold ethical business practices are other methods for supporting corporate social responsibility. Environmental sustainability -- working in eco-friendly buildings, encouraging recycling in the workplace or investing in renewable energies that minimize carbon dioxide emissions -- prevents environmental damage to cities and natural habitats where company products are produced, sold and consumed.
Businesses must consider global effects, controversial products and changing attitudes when conducting socially responsible marketing programs. External factors existing outside a company’s control such as government corruption or warfare can influence the success of a corporate responsibility program. Industries that produce potentially unhealthy or dangerous products, including cigarettes, weaponry or nuclear power, face additional challenges in rectifying ethical practices with stakeholder investment and profit. Moreover, societal attitudes towards different issues evolve with the emergence of technologies and human behaviors. Marketing professionals must be ready to respond with sophisticated campaigns that take into account regulations and policies surrounding the economy, environment and society.
The 1987 United Nations “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development” notes that individuals and businesses must engage in activity that promotes sustainable development and alleviates the strain on the world’s natural resources. Companies operating in the 21st century are responding by investing money in socially responsible programs. Approximately $2.3 trillion is being invested in firms that actively practice and rate highly in corporate social responsibility, according to an October 2006 CNNMoney article.