August 31, 2021

6 Socially Responsible Brands Taking a Stand

Young man looks up at Times Square signage

Five or ten years ago, far fewer brands were willing to put themselves out there and get behind a social cause. It seemed too risky. Too alienating. Now, the ground has shifted and it’s riskier to NOT take a stand. Today, brands are reacting to consumer demand and throwing their support behind a cause that aligns with their own mission. They’re realizing it’s not enough to just do well financially for their stakeholders. They have to do good in the world, too. Seventy percent of consumers want to know what brands are doing to address social and environmental issues, and nearly half (46%) pay close attention to that when they’re putting down their hard-earned money for the product or service

Here are 6 brands who are throwing their support behind causes they care about.

Levi Strauss:

Water scarcity is an increasing problem and Levi Strauss is at the forefront of highlighting this issue. The brand has committed to reducing water usage during its production of those iconic jeans. While this year’s extension of an ongoing conservation campaign features a famous face, it’s not a necessity for your brand to use a celebrity (and in some cases, that may hurt the effort.)

Ford Motor Company

Ford recently unveiled its all-electric truck, the F-150 Lightning and committed to investing $30 billion in EVs by 2025 and aspires to be carbon neutral by 2050. According to their website, Ford says they have one purpose:  “to help build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.” This kind of broad, aspirational messaging is what resonates with consumers.

Google:

Google has also committed to carbon neutrality, and it makes for good common sense, as the best social activism efforts do. These aren’t topics the brands can keep at arm’s length even if they wanted to. Google can’t ignore the fact that it’s responsible for all those people on all those keyboards, typing away on those carbon-eating devices to search for the “best tacos near me” and “cute cat videos” all over the planet. They have enough self -awareness (as much as a corporation can have a self) to recognize and own their part in the problem and to be a part of the solution.

Hand holding a mobile phone with Google browser open
Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

While environmentalism as a social issue has gained traction, few brands have ventured into more delicate territory such as immigration and racism.  Overall, it’s safer to support non-partisan causes, but highly politicized current events are sparking even further change. From Black Lives Matter protests to the January 6th attack on the capitol, more companies are letting their viewpoints be known.

Netflix:

The tide really shifted in 2020’s racial unrest with Netflix tweeting: “To be silent is to be complicit.” Indeed, even more consumers started demanding meaningful action from companies instead of just empty words proclaiming solidarity. In other words, there was a collective cry of “Put your money where your mouth is.” 

Netflix building headquarters at sunset

This year, Netflix announced it would invest $100 million in order to improve diversity in its shows, and a recent study revealed that over 50% of the shows on the platform feature women in lead roles. Netflix also started suggesting more content featuring more diverse cast and talent.

Nike:

Nike turned its famous “Just Do It” tagline on its head by telling people to do the opposite. “Don’t do it,” they stated, in this simple yet powerful and widely shared video tweet.

This example shows that the content does not need to be splashy or have extremely high production value. It just needs to have a viewpoint and express it clearly.

Ben & Jerry’s:

Not one of the newcomers to controversy, Ben & Jerry’s has long shared their stances on everything from LGBTQ+ rights, refugee rights and criminal justice reform to climate justice.

You’ll note that this video is from 2014. Ben & Jerry’s commitment isn’t a flash in the pan, nor should it be for any company. This kind of activism needs to be an ongoing effort or consumers will see right through it as the opportunistic eyeball-grab it would be without the authenticity.

Whatever your commitment, you have to mean it, and walk the walk. Are you in the process of moving to corporate social responsibility or even corporate activism? Do you want help telling that story? Contact us.