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Make Money—Practice Social Responsibility

by Denise Shiffman  |  
January 30, 2007

Conventional wisdom would have many executives believe that social responsibility is in conflict with revenue and profit growth. It's true: A company's responsibility is to increase profits. Yet social responsibility doesn't have to be a drag on the bottom line. Today, you can actually make money by giving.

Social and environmental responsibility are no longer just about donating money and services to needy groups. Business process, product development, and partnerships can all be analyzed for better, more responsible alternatives. And if the responsible choice saves money in the long run, adds value to the product, and creates a positive culture inside the company, then it's a good thing.

Social and environmental responsibility should no longer be an afterthought, but a key part of how a company exists, develops its products and services, and attracts great employees. And that's where marketing comes in.

Marketing should take the lead and catalyze the company to move forward on social-responsibility programs. Within the company's strategy and vision, marketing can find opportunities for product differentiation and customer loyalty that integrate solutions to social and environmental problems.

Being creative and inventive here can push your strategy ahead of the competition and shine a positive light on the company.

Here are some thoughts on how to get started:

Think self-interest

Look at the industry your company is in. What are the social and environmental hazards or issues? Is there a way to address them and at the same time provide your company with an advantage (lower cost, higher value, unique differentiator)? Nestle eliminates middlemen and buys milk directly from farmers in third-world countries, significantly lowering the company's costs. To enable this process, Nestle educates and trains local farmers. This is a huge win-win. As farmers learn to farm better, their wealth grows, the community expands, and milk resources for Nestle's requirements are met at a lower cost. The best place to start is where the impact of the social program is in your own backyard.

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Denise Shiffman ( owns the marketing consulting firm Venture Essentials and is the founder of, a community site and blog for marketers.

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