December is the official month of giving, and what better way to celebrate than to extend our generosity beyond the presents we wrap and place under the tree, and the donations of time and money that we place with our favorite personal charities.
That’s right, today we’re talking about the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the impact it can have on your company and brand. If this term isn’t already part of your company-wide lexicon, it should be. Because while it may sound like a trendy buzzword, it’s anything but—especially for those operating in the fintech and financial services space.
But first…what is corporate social responsibility?
Whether or not you’re familiar with the term, the definition of corporate social responsibility bears repeating. So here it is:
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. …Also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental.
In essence, the act of creating company-wide values is an excellent step but it isn’t enough on its own. As younger generations (i.e. the most vocal on social media channels) continue to grow into the most dominant consumer demographic, your actions will need to speak louder than your words.
Because they aren’t just listening to every word you say, they’re watching every single thing you do. And this is confirmed every time a study or research report finds that modern-day consumers are willing to spend more of their money with brands that prioritize corporate social responsibility—more on that in a bit.
Why fintech and financial services should care about CSR
We devoted the bulk of 2019 to the discussion of brand authenticity and customer-centricity in fintech and financial services marketing. We wrote entire articles that explored how staying focused on both efforts can help establish stronger bonds of trust and loyalty with your target audience and customers.
Today, we’re bringing it full circle by discussing the need for CSR strategies in fintech and financial services organizations, and how to get started creating your own.
We all know how transformative, empowering and fast-paced the fintech market has been in the last ten years. As we enter this next decade, all signs point to an industry that continues to transform, empower global consumers, and grow at unprecedented rates. For the world, that’s exciting. But for your fintech company, that not only means the competition is growing in size, they’re growing in strength.
As innovation continues to speed up, the perception of what tech and finance can deliver will no doubt exceed every single prediction out there. And as that happens, your customers will need to feel even more validated in their decision to trust your brand and spend their hard-earned money on your products or services.
In short? The further we distance ourselves from our customers physically, the more we need to humanize ourselves to establish the connection, trust, and reliability they’re so desperately seeking. One way to accomplish this feat is to implement a strong CSR program that holds your brand accountable to its values.
Corporate social responsibility by the numbers
Before we get into what CSR for your fintech or financial services brand might look like, let’s back up what we just laid out with some statistics. Remember those studies and research reports we mentioned earlier? Here’s a quick rundown of what those uncovered.
- Two-thirds of consumers believe in giving back to their community; and purchasing from brands that donate to charity is often the way they go about it.
- 40% of internet users in the UK and US think financial services should be held more accountable for CSR policies.
- 27% of consumers say misleading commitments to social and environmental causes damage their perception of a brand.
- 53% of millennials, influencers, and GenZers have purchased from a brand to show support for the issues the brand supports.
- 67% of people from the same age demographic have either stopped purchasing or considered doing so if the company stood for or did something that didn’t align with their values.
- 64% of global consumers find brands more attractive when they actively community their purpose
- 78% of Americans believe companies need to do more than make money. They need to positively impact society.
These are just seven CSR statistics in a sea of thousands. And as compelling as these are, it’s important to approach corporate social responsibility with the same level of intention and planning as everything else in business. Case in point? While 86 percent of consumers believe companies should take a stand for social issues, 64 percent will switch, avoid, or boycott a brand entirely if its stance on societal issues contradicts their own.
As delicate of a balancing act as this seems, there are ways to ensure your CSR policies are rooted in a strong foundation.
Creating CSR policies for your fintech or financial services brand
Here are some tips, tricks, and best practices for creating and implementing corporate social responsibility policies for your company in the new year.
- Define your corporate values: Before you think about what CSR looks like for your brand, you need to define your brand values. List out what’s most important to your company from a values perspective first. That way, when it’s time to define your corporate social responsibility initiatives, they’ll be rooted in a strong foundation.
- Stay authentic: When it comes to selecting which non-profit organizations your CSR efforts will help support, it’s important to stay authentic to your brand. For example, REI is a brand well known for its commitment to protecting the environment. If REI suddenly gave their financial support to an organization that advocates against climate change, they’d not only lose a large chunk of their customer base, but the support of their stakeholders. Your CSR policies should be aligned to, and reinforce, your brand values.
- You’ll never please everyone: We know it’s tempting to try, but there’s no way you’ll make everyone happy. In fact, your stance on societal issues might even turn some people away. Earlier we shared that 64 percent of American consumers will switch, avoid, or boycott a brand if its stance on societal issues doesn’t jibe with their own. As overwhelming and daunting as that statistic may be, never ever (EVER!) compromise your values to please the masses. Because you never will. But in your attempt, you could easily lose your most loyal customers.
- Write it down: Without writing it down, your corporate social responsibility policy is nothing more than a series of nice thoughts and intended actions. Draft a copy that you can share with your employees, stakeholders, investors, and customers. Outline principles every member of your team can execute, along with clear ways to measure the efficacy of your program.
- Engage your employees: Actively involve your employees in the creation and execution of your CSR policy. By asking for their opinions, thoughts and suggestions—they’ll be more invested in the successful implementation and outcome.
- Identify metrics: Establish benchmarks and metrics to help understand how your CSR program is performing. By reporting the outcomes of your efforts, you can easily see what’s working, what isn’t, and make the appropriate adjustments along the way.
- Share it: Part of creating a corporate social responsibility policy is communicating it to your audience. Consider devoting a page on your website to share your brand values, mission, and CSR practices. Ask your marketing and social media teams to come up with a public-facing strategy that communicates your commitment to social responsibility.
- Live it: While it’s important to create a CSR program for your fintech or financial services brand, it’s equally important not to rush into it. Only make commitments and promises you know you can keep, and stand by them. Your entire organization should not only know where you stand on societal issues, but stand with you as a representative of the brand.
Bring the spirit of giving into the new year
At CSTMR, we strive to make corporate social responsibility a priority and plan to continue our commitment in 2020. We’d love for you to join us. Let’s make our world a little better and brighter than we found it, and reinforce our mutual commitments to being authentic and customer-centric in the new year.