A 2010 survey by Landor Associates, Burson-Marsteller and Penn Schoen Berland, companies that specialize in brand consulting, public relations and messaging and communications strategy, respectively, found that 77 percent of consumers believe social responsibility should be a priority for companies. Many larger companies use the phrase "corporate social responsibility," or CSR, to define this concept, but any company of any size can capitalize on the demand for products and services that help employees, communities and the environment by engaging in socially responsible advertising.


Companies across all industries can promote health-related causes as a way of attracting new customers and retaining old ones. Kenneth Cole has used his name and his brand to champion HIV/AIDS research since 1985. His advertising vehicle is his Kenneth Cole Foundation called Aweareness. The organization serves to encourage and promote meaningful social change. In 2011, the organization sponsored an exhibition called "Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985-2010." Featuring 153 posters from around the globe, the focus of the event was to draw attention to AIDS as a public health emergency.


Another area where companies advertise their commitment to social responsibility is in education. Chevron, in partnership with Donorschoose.org, sponsors 50 percent of all grants offered through the site to help provide teaching materials to public classrooms. Microsoft advertises several educational programs that support learning for youth, educators and others in the community. Microsoft's Shape the Future Program providers seven million youth across the globe with access to affordable and relevant education technologies while the Microsoft IT Academy allows students in 160 countries to gain the technology skills to be competitive in a global economy.

The Environment

Companies worldwide have started rebranding and advertising the environmental-friendly features of their products. Buzzwords such as biodegradable, recyclable, organic and eco-friendly have all been slapped onto product labels, where applicable, to attract more customers. Some companies, like The Body Shop, have made it their mission to be stewards of the earth from the very beginning. Founded in 1976 in Brighton, England, Dame Anita Roddick promoted her company as a force for change. A human rights activist, Dame Roddick worked with Greenpeace on a "Save the Whale" campaign in 1986 and established The Body Shop foundation in 1990 to fund environmental protection and human rights groups.


Businesses should invest in meaningful CSR initiatives. A 2011 study by Kusum Ailawadi and Jackie Luan of Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business noted that businesses that invest in programs such as sourcing from local growers and suppliers, environmental friendliness, treating employees fairly and community support are likely to have a positive influence on consumers. More importantly, these businesses have an opportunity to increase sales by effectively advertising these initiatives. Businesses should think strategically about which initiatives or socially responsible changes are most likely to connect with an audience and then determine what channels will work best to promote them.