2013 in Review: The Top CSR Trends You Need to Know

Dec 23, 2013 10:15 AM ET

Prove Your Purpose

Here at Cone Communications, we spend the entire year tracking emerging CSR issues and trends. From buildings made out of 100 percent recycled materials to $150,000 fantasy gifts for a cause, companies were bold, even brazen, in their approaches to accelerating positive change in 2013. In today's issue of Prove Your Purpose, we've taken hundreds of cause marketing and CSR campaigns and distilled them into the top 10 need-to-know trends for executives. Here is a sampling:

1.    The Empowered Purchaser: 2013 brought a slew of new apps focused on empowering consumers to make responsible purchasing decisions. Consumers can now discover how many slaves worked to produce a product via the Slavery Footprintapp, or scan a barcode with the Buycott app to quickly tell if a brand's values align with their own. Shoppers are now increasingly armed with the information and tools to signal their approval of, or opposition to, specific business practices.

2.    Guerilla (Cause) Marketing: Companies used daring, "in-your-face" marketing to bring awareness to important issues.Unilever's Lifebuoy brand printed a hand-washing message on 2.5 million rotis (bread eaten with the hands) during the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela to inspire behavior change and prevent disease. And a Whole Foods Market in Providence, RI removed 52 percent of all its produce from store shelves to show shoppers the implications if the endangered bee population died off. Although these efforts may seem aggressive, there is no question each company made a lasting impression with its social message.

3.    Supply Chain Gain: Following the Bangladesh factory collapse last April, the supply chains of nearly every manufacturer and retailer were scrutinized. Several companies proactively led new improvements and innovations. Levi's responded with the Dockers Wellthread clothing line, which will be produced exclusively at its Improving Worker Well-Being pilot sites. H&M recently announced it will become the sole customer of three factories to gain better control of working conditions and also promised "living wages" to all textile workers by 2018.

4.    "Add to Cart" for Good: Online retailers of all shapes and sizes responded with gusto to the growing demand for socially conscious consumption. Though a little late to the cause marketing table, Amazon made a huge splash with its recently launched Amazon Smile website, which activates a 0.5% charitable donation every time consumers shop. This year also cemented a rising trend of new online retailers focused on positive impact including ZadySevenly and Able Made, among others.

5.    Brick and Mortar Gets a Makeover: Brick and mortar companies addressed sustainability from the ground up with bold environmental goals in 2013. Walgreens and Sainsbury's have both made major sustainable buildings commitments with net-zero and water neutral stores, respectively. Nike took building innovation to new levels when it announced a new store made entirely of recycled materials. The facility is also made without glue, making it easier to re-recycle at end-of-life.

Want to learn more about the top 10 trends for CSR in 2013? Continue reading on Triple Pundit or view our webinar on January 16, 2014.