For any ordinary world citizen, it is unlikely that the opportunity to personally help farmers in Costa Rica, save the dwindling populations of honeybees or bring the families of hospitalized children together will present itself. Yet, for any ordinary person, they can essentially have a part in these initiatives simply by purchasing products from companies like Starbucks, Haagen Dazs and McDonald’s.

At the core of Corporate Social Responsibility, lies the individual consumer. That individual could be the common soccer mom buying one juice over another because of what that juice company does for local schools, or the busy student preferring to buy a notebook made out of recycled paper or a couple of office workers choosing to take their coffee at a café that fair trades its beans. These ordinary consumers are replacing single bottom lines (which consider profit only) with triple bottom lines (which consider profits, the planet and people).

Studies increasingly demonstrate that consumers care deeply about CSR initiatives. According to a study conducted by Hal Brice, 94% of consumers will opt for products (if of the same price and quality) that derive from companies with ethical and noteworthy CSR practices and 82% of consumers voice their opinions concerning CSR directly to a company.

As CSR has swept the globe, corporations have gained a human face. Essentially, consumers are no longer simply purchasing products when they go to a store or frequent a business; they are expressing their values and voting for causes through their purchasing power.

In this sense, corporations, companies and brands have become akin to candidates in a tight race. The consumer is interested in how a corporation will utilize their purchase. How will they treat the community and the world? Will they make wise decisions considering the environment and their carbon footprint or will they green sweep their data and lie to the public?

Through accurate accounting/recording, extending goalposts beyond mere compliance standards, engaging in volunteer work and caring about the responsible stewardship of the earth, corporations establish favorable reputations.

Consumers will eventually “vote out” the corporations who harm the environment or mistreat their employees and even the corporations who comply with standards and do “nothing wrong,” will eventually be extinguished by those companies who are doing “everything right.” As consumer involvement and stakeholder expectations increase, so will the standards of corporate cultures all over the world.

Perhaps, in the past, corporations were bigger and more powerful than the common person. Today, the common person is bigger and more powerful than the corporation. Like a mass of candidates searching for a win, companies are running to get on the bandwagon of the new CSR paradigm. This is due to the ever increasingly obvious fact that the final outcome of the success of a corporation is contingent on stakeholders, the public and the common person. It is their vote that will eventually determine which companies fail and burn out and which companies grow strong and prosper.

Jennifer Finch, Chief Editor
THE CSR Co., Ltd.

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