Smart companies know the benefits of social responsibility. Smarter companies know that their audience, too, is looking for ways to give back.

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I invited Sandals Foundation Director of Programs Heidi Clarke to Marketing Smarts to discuss how the foundation both supports the communities where Sandals Resorts International does business and enables vacationers who want to volunteer to get involved as well.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Corporate social responsibility is a win/win/win situation (04:07): "It's about truly having an impact. It's about building a better Caribbean. It's critical that it's done and it's done properly. It's not about adding fluff anymore. Consumers and travelers are so much more conscientious. They want to know that they are making a difference whether they are at home, they're buying a product, or they're traveling. It's a great opportunity for us to better our region, and it's a great opportunity for travelers. They're learning about the culture. They're learning about the cuisine. They're learning about the people. It's a win/win situation for the company, the community, and also for the traveler."

Give customers the opportunity to volunteer, but let them know they're already helping just by purchasing your product or service (06:24): "There's always a fine line. We want to ensure that our guests are coming to have the best experience and a luxury experience. But people are not blind to seeing issues that are in the Caribbean, and we certainly can't hide those. So we want them to know that their vacation is making a difference. That really makes them feel good and it makes us feel good and it benefits the community."

Your employees want to give back, so let them (08:45): "Every aspect of our company's involved. Whether you're an account at SRI that I engage and say, 'I need a little time to help guide a school that's not quite sure of their accounting abilities,' or a project team that does all the construction at the hotels that I need guidance in the community because we're helping to upgrade a school, or it's our marketing teams helping to bring partners on board.

"And then our teams at the hotel bring awareness to all our programs, and they're able to volunteer. They're the ones we lean on to say, 'Look, we need to get sports day done at this school across the road. There's not enough parents. We need you guys out there to build excitement and cheer the kids on.... They're very, very much involved.

"We don't say that my office of eight people is what we're made up of. We are 14,000 strong because everyone's participating. Over the 10 years [the Foundation's existed], our employees have seen the impact in their communities. They've seen what's going on. And they're our eyes and ears in the community. They come and they say to us, 'Hey, there's a great project' or 'they need some help, will you come and look at this project?' They're instrumental in all we do. There are some people who've said they joined the company just because of the Foundation."

To learn more, visit or follow the Foundation on Twitter: @SandalsFDN.

Heidi and I talked about much more, including how to get started building a corporate social responsibility program at your company and how to establish partnerships in your community, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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