September 28, 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 min.

7 Social Impact Examples from Top Brands

Modern consumers are looking beyond goods and services. They’re drawn towards brands that actively engage and contribute to both local and global communities in meaningful ways. 

This has propelled brands to become more transparent and intentional about the social impact they aim to make.

As companies embrace a more ethical approach to doing business, they’re discovering innovative ways to intertwine their business operations with social good.

If you’re thinking of aligning your own company with a purposeful mission, or simply wish to identify the ways companies are contributing positively to the world, look no further. In this article, we’ll discuss the 7 brands that are paving the way for corporate social responsibility.


What is Social Impact?

Social impact is the positive change a business creates for individuals or communities by addressing pressing challenges. It’s about making a real difference, whether that’s through creating jobs, solving social issues, or aiding environmental causes. Businesses achieve social impact by looking beyond profits and aligning their goals with societal needs.


The Journey of Brands Towards Social Impact

Social impact and corporate responsibility has come a long way since its early days. Initially, it was all about companies donating to charity and participating in community volunteering events. 

But while businesses have been giving to charities and volunteering for years, it’s only been recently that brands have woven the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into their core business philosophy.

Today, brands are looking at social impact through a new lens. It’s not just about writing checks to good causes, but integrating social and environmental advancement goals into the very fabric of business strategies. 

This concept has been generating momentum in recent years, fueled by an increased support from consumers who understand the importance of doing good in the world. 

In fact, 75% of Americans now believe it’s no longer acceptable for a business to just make money, they must make a positive social impact too.

It’s clear that the trend towards corporate social responsibility has become a mainstay. 

To help you understand the growing trend towards social impact in business, we’ve analyzed seven brands that are leading the way in CSR.


1. Starbucks: C.A.F.E

Starbucks, a name synonymous with sugary coffee and fantastic customer service, has also garnered recognition by emphasizing ethical sourcing. 

At the heart of their social impact efforts lies their Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices, a set of guidelines that promotes social, economic, and environmental standards in coffee farming communities worldwide.

The cornerstone of Starbucks’ C.A.F.E. Practice is to foster a better future for farmers and a more sustainable coffee sector. The initiative ensures fair treatment of farmers and workers, along with promoting eco-friendly farming practices.

By advocating for better wages, safer working conditions, and environmentally sustainable farming practices, Starbucks has played a pivotal role in elevating the quality of life for coffee farmers and their families. 

Moreover, the emphasis on ethical sourcing has helped in preserving the delicate ecosystem of coffee farms, ensuring they remain fruitful for generations to come.

Starbucks’ approach has not only yielded positive outcomes for farming communities but also set a remarkable precedent for social impact in the coffee industry. 

It’s a stellar social impact example, and proof of how brands can brew success alongside making a significant social impact.


2. Patagonia: Don’t Buy This Jacket

Patagonia, a brand revered for its outdoor apparel, has an ethos deeply rooted in environmental responsibility.

One of the hallmark campaigns that spotlight Patagonia’s environmental stewardship is the bold “Don’t Buy This Jacket” initiative.

In 2011, Patagonia launched a provocative ad in the New York Times on Black Friday, a day synonymous with excessive buying. The world-renowned apparel company took out an entire page in the famous newspaper, urging consumers to think twice before making a purchase.

The campaign resonated widely, sparking a discourse on sustainable consumption and propelling the brand to the forefront of the environmental responsibility movement within the retail sector.

The success of this campaign was twofold; it not only bolstered Patagonia’s standing as a brand committed to environmental conservation, but also forced consumers to ponder the environmental impact of their buying decisions.

Patagonia’s viral marketing stunt is a testament to how brands can transition from mere profit-driven entities to an example of positive social impact.


3. TOMS Shoes

TOMS Shoes was a hallmark name in the realm of corporate social impact. The brand’s unique “One for One” shoe donation program was a stellar example of the companies’ commitment to making the world a better place. 

With every pair of shoes sold, TOMS pledged to donate another pair to a child in need. This simple yet powerful promise turned ordinary purchases into acts of social contribution.

Here’s a quick rundown of how it worked:

  • Toms shoes cost roughly $10 to produce.
  • But, they’re sold for anywhere from $45 to $150 in stores.
  • The customer pays the retail cost of the shoes, and TOMS is able to use their excess profit to produce and donate an additional pair of shoes to someone in need

The “One for One” initiative was more than a quirky marketing tactic; it provided shoes for millions of children across the globe, offering not just footwear but a foundation for better health, education, and opportunity. 

TOMS made this offer an integral part of their marketing strategy, and donating shoes to people in need became an entire extension of their core business efforts.

Even though the one-to-one program proved to be a leading example of social impact, a number of critical articles were published in recent years questioning the sustainability of the initiative.

TOMS has since shut down their one-to-one program following these criticisms, but not before they made a serious impact on the lives of the underprivileged, which is something not many businesses can say.


4. Unilever

Unilever, known globally for its wide range of consumer goods, has made it a point in recent years to focus on developing sustainable products.

Their Sustainable Living Plan, launched in 2010, is a comprehensive framework that underscores Unilever’s commitment to sustainable development.

It’s comprised of three core pillars:

  • Improving Health and Well-being: Through products and campaigns that aim to enhance the quality of life for individuals and communities.
  • Reducing Environmental Impact: Ambitious goals have been set, like sourcing 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2023 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Unilever is also on a mission to achieve net-zero emissions from its products by 2039.
  • Enhancing Livelihoods: By fostering fair trade, ethical sourcing, and other equitable practices, Unilever aims to uplift the economic conditions of communities intertwined with its supply chain.

Unilever put this plan into action by launching a series of products aimed at promoting sustainability. 

One example is OMO EcoActive, an eco-friendly detergent that uses a plant-based cleaning solution rather than toxic chemicals. It comes in a fully recyclable bottle and is made with 25% recycled materials.

They also introduced The Vegetarian Butcher, a plant-based meat alternative that underscores the brand’s commitment to offering more sustainable and ethical food options. 

Unilever claims it’s “the only butcher loved by both people and animals.”

But Unilever’s social impact journey doesn’t stop at product innovation. 

They’re using their scale and influence to introduce initiatives that promote social impact beyond their suite of products.

From stringent sustainability standards for suppliers to initiatives like the Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards, Unilever is nurturing a culture of sustainability and innovation.


5. LEGO Group

LEGO Group has embarked on a few initiatives that reflect its commitment to being a green and responsible brand. Here are some of the notable steps LEGO has taken so far:

  • Sustainable Materials: By 2030, the company aims to manufacture all its core products and packaging from environmentally friendly materials. They’ve even started producing some of their toy bricks using sugarcane.
  • Renewable Energy: LEGO reached its 100% renewable energy target three years ahead of schedule in 2017. They also invested in two offshore wind farms, a significant contribution to the global transition to renewable energy.
  • Recycling and Waste Management: LEGO aims to have zero waste in operations by 2025. They’ve been minimizing waste generation and have implemented recycling programs across their operations to ensure materials are reused or recycled efficiently.
  • Collaborations and Partnerships: LEGO regularly collaborates with external partners and global organizations to promote sustainability. Their partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is a testament to their commitment to protecting the environment.

LEGO is a prime example of a company that can continue to grow exponentially while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint.

Through a blend of innovation, investments, and education, LEGO’s inspiring the next generation of leaders to be environmentally conscious.


6. Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s has long been a vocal advocate for social, economic, and environmental justice. 

Their approach to social impact is as unique and bold as their flavors, demonstrating a corporate mission that’s deeply rooted in community and global betterment.

To address racism and promote criminal justice reform, they launched their “Justice ReMix’d” flavor. 

Sales from this flavor support the Advancement Project National Office in their efforts to promote racial equality through grassroots programs.

On the environmental front, Ben & Jerry’s launched the “Save Our Swirled” campaign to raise awareness about climate change. 

The campaign not only highlighted the urgent need for climate action but also supported the global climate movement through various initiatives, including a flavor dedicated to the cause.

Through their various campaigns and creative flavors, Ben & Jerry’s has demonstrated how businesses can intertwine profit with purpose.


7. Microsoft

Microsoft, a titan in the tech industry, is carving out a bold path in the realm of environmental sustainability with its commitment to becoming carbon-negative by 2030. 

This goal is part of a broader vision to mitigate the climate crisis by leveraging its technological prowess to lower its carbon footprint.

In addition to its climate initiatives, Microsoft is making waves in other areas of social impact and corporate responsibility. 

The company’s Affordable Access Initiative is a stellar example, aimed at providing affordable internet access to underserved communities.

Through various programs and partnerships, the company is working to equip individuals in underprivileged areas with the digital skills necessary for the modern workforce.

Their holistic approach to social impact underscores a blend of environmental stewardship, community empowerment, and ethical technological innovation. 

Microsoft’s journey highlights how a tech behemoth can leverage its resources and expertise to drive meaningful change on a global scale.


How to Promote Social Impact at Your Organization

Incorporating social impact into your organization’s mission goes beyond just having good intentions; it requires a solid strategy. 

Start by articulating a clear mission and setting achievable goals. Defining what success looks like and teaming up with the right people can significantly propel your ideas forward. 

Inspiration can be drawn from successful social impact examples, like the ones mentioned above, to carve out a unique strategy for your organization. 

If you’re looking for help marketing your philanthropic efforts, look no further than our team of experts at Strat Labs. We tell the stories that matter, and bridge the gap between marketing and social impact. 

We have a lofty goal – to make the world a better place, and we can help you do the same. Contact us today!

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