When thinking about the future of brands, one subject that should be at the forefront of conversation is corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR refers to the concept that a business is not only responsible for creating value for shareholders but should also seek to benefit the broader community in which it exists.
Research from Harvard Business School finds that 79% of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place. At the same time, 73% of investors state that efforts to improve the environment and society contribute to their investment decisions.
These trends, among others, suggest that the case for corporate social responsibility extends far beyond sheer altruism. As brands look to the future, the need to address and take on social issues centred around environmental concerns, respect for local communities, technology use, and energy consumption is paramount. Failure to do so and the backlash has the potential to be bad for business.
At 01-20, we work with clients to build out brand identities that are authentic and deliver on a true-to-form brand ethos and vision. CSR strategies are the efforts of interdisciplinary and on-the-ground teams. We integrate ourselves into these teams and push and challenge brands to think about ways to create corporate social responsibility plans that ring true and do not come across as paying mere lip service to a cause. Within the hospitality sector, we suggest the following as an accessible entry point to begin thinking about CSR:
1. Consider what causes align with your brand values and mission - how might you champion this as a brand?
2. Think locally - how can hotels bring a bit of the surrounding culture and community inside?
3. Be strategic about brand partnerships and choose them wisely. The right ones possess the ability to drive CSR progress.
As a business, think about how you want to make clients feel. Then, work to deliver programming that gets to the root of this feeling while reflecting brand values. The Hoxton is a good example of this.
A series of “open-house hotels inspired by the diversity and originality of the [surrounding] streets and scenes,” The Hoxton attracts a clientele that is curious, design-forward, and open-minded. Pride programming runs the gamut across the many Hoxton locations. In 2021, The Hoxton commissioned local queer artists to create Pride themed-coffee cups.
Portions of these proceeds were donated to local LGBTQ organisations like the Center on Halsted in Chicago. Likewise, Pride-related events were held in all locations and in cities like London, where Pride events played out on a city-wide scale, Pride maps reflected the various areas worth exploring during the celebration. Because The Hoxton has a long history of championing open-mindedness and celebrating the people and places that make a place great, the choice for The Hoxton to celebrate Pride comes across as genuine and authentic. This, in turn, builds up brand reputation and positions The Hoxton as a hotel that not just talks the talk, but also one that walks the walk.
Another hotel that nails its commitment to social good is Peacock Pavilions in Marrakech.
Guided by a mission to do, be, and make good, Peacock Pavilions supports Project Soar, a non-profit that seeks to empower local Moroccan girls through art, sports, health, and English language education. Directed by Maryam Montagu, a co-owner of Peacock Pavilions, Project Soar receives support from Peacock Pavilions via financial assistance and facilities for programmatic activity. Likewise, guests are encouraged to support the cause by volunteering time, donating money, and shopping at M.Montague Souk where there is a give back to Project Soar with every purchase. Peacock Pavilions’ mission and the people behind it, mean CSR efforts not only make sense, they are a given.
Partnerships with local brands are another chance to bolster a hotel’s commitment to social responsibility. The benefit of doing so is manifold. Not only do guests want a taste of the local when travelling but also, in doing so, a hotel establishes a strong working relationship with a local organisation. It is smart to choose brands that have commitment to social consciousness and sustainability.
Eco-friendly stays like Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel and resort in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, have this down to a tee. In-room products and F&B offerings are sourced and handcrafted primarily on-site. Because of small and thoughtfully curated touchpoints like these, Blackberry Farm has a fine reputation for providing a luxury stay while also sustainably-minded.
Ultimately, corporate social responsibility should not be thought of as a financial tradeoff but rather a financial strategy that builds up a brand’s reputation. Though it may require more investment and time upfront, the cost of choosing to do good more often than not pays back in droves.
In a day and age when conscious consumption is at the forefront of customers’ minds, successful corporate social responsibility strategies make customers feel they are a part of something committed to making the world a better place. When coupled in-tandem with quality service, these efforts possess the potential to generate positive optics, drive customer loyalty and within the hospitality sector, increase ADR’s. Put simply, consumers feel good about doing good. If a quality service does good in the process, the pull to return will be ever stronger.