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As a company leader, I try to positively impact my community whenever possible. Whether its youth programs, gender equity, career coaching, or anti-violence, we (Complete SET agency) create educational themed events as well as donate portions of revenue to social change. Cause models like this, whether grassroots or multinational, are increasingly important for businesses, large and small, to have at their operational core. Ensuring that your business is creating a positive impact is a necessary competitive advantage. In fact, a 2018 Conecomm survey found that 78 percent of Americans now expect companies to go beyond profits and to also positively impact society. Social impact is a broad term that refers to the positive change businesses have on their community. A company's emphasis on a level of corporate social responsibility, or CSR, can be an integral part of making your business more appealing to clients, employees, vendors, and investors.
I spoke with Harrie Bakst, co-founder of WCPG, a leading firm that specializes in cause marketing and consumer engagement with teams, leagues, athletes, celebrities, and brands. “As we move ahead in a new world, cause marketing and social responsibility for brands have gone from being an add-on to a must-have as part of consumer engagement,” Bakst says. “If you are a leading a company today you have reevaluated and expanded your messaging and ties to all forms of community engagement as it is now one of the first things people are looking and asking for.”
Given the many benefits that come from social impact, it’s important for entrepreneurs to be aware of some of the leading socially conscious businesses. Here is a list of the companies that excel in cause marketing and social change. This is a cross-section of various industries and company size, and each included business has a CSR focus that entrepreneurs can learn from.
VKTRY Insoles may not seem like the sexiest of products, but their exclusive designed carbon fiber insoles have helped reduce injury and improve performance of over 300 NFL players and countless Olympians in the past few years, as well as MLB stars like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vlad Guerreo Jr. However their biggest impact may be to those on their feet all day; first responders, government officials, and healthcare workers. That's why the company, based in Connecticut, launched VKTRY4Heroes in March. With the help of Cleveland Browns' rising star running back Nick Chubb, the company provides thousands of pairs of the pricey but effective shoe insoles to healthcare workers from around the country at no cost, helping those on the front lines stay healthy and focused.
The KissCam brand is recognized globally in sporting venues worldwide. KissCam, LLC acquired the trademark and developed a patented mobile app that enables fans to participate in the excitement of being featured on arena screens. With this season's empty sports venues, KissCam offers teams and leagues an excellent vehicle to enhance the fan experience without game-goers ever leaving their living room coach. The company has pledged a donation structure into its clash flows. KissCam keeps games fun and passionate for fans, but also can make a lasting positive change in the community with its donations.
Playmaker is a hybrid media, merchandise, and music company. They have an apparel collection designed for social causes including, for example, basketballs printed with names of victims of police brutality. Playmaker has been able to leverage their global exposure (with social media followers in the tens of millions) to give a site-wide percentage of net proceeds to funds like Feeding America, Covid-19 relief, and more. “The reality in our industry is that the people we celebrate the most and that inspire us are the same people that are marginalized and need support at this time,” Playmaker founder and president Brandon Harris said. “It is unacceptable and also predatory for brands in sports to not make social change a major initiative.”
The fitness drink company has put together a giveback initiative with product drops around the country at firehouses and hospitals for those on the front lines. Celsius has delivered over 7,000 cases of their product to hospitals around the country. The company also offers first responders / healthcare workers a case of their energy drinks if they DM the Celsius Instagram page with a picture of their work ID. This is a creative way to build positive awareness and association for your brand.
Launched in 2012, Flatiron Health is a healthcare tech company that strives to improve lives by learning from the experience of every cancer patient. The founders of Flatiron Health realized that cancer data has long been unstructured and difficult to use. Flatiron Health was founded to address that problem by organizing and standardizing data from cancer patients.
They currently have organized more than two million patient records that can be used for research. Working with more than 280 community oncology practices as well as the FDA and NCI, they serve as a key facilitator for cancer research and for improving patient experiences. Recognizing and addressing a relatively simple but important issue, Flatiron Health provides an important model for innovation that can lead to a successful and impactful company.
For three seasons, the monthly Fox Sports television show “Power of Sports” has traveled to cities across the United States every month to showcase how teams, athletes, and organizations use sports to make a positive impact in their communities. I have worked as a producer of the show, now rebranded as “Good Sports” in June 2020. The show started season four in September and has now expanded to all of the regional sports networks under the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s umbrella. With more than 120 airings a month, “Good Sports” shines a spotlight on sports’ intrinsic ability to spark positive change. “In every city, there are dozens of great stories of how people are leveraging sports to teach, to inspire and to raise up underserved youth,” show host Rick Horrow says. “Our goal from the start was to inspire others to embrace the inherent power of sports as a method of outreach.” Good Sports also has a robust digital presence, attracting more than two million views on their YouTube channel which extends their message for social change tremendously.
Ready Nutrition founder Pat Cavanaugh built his business around healthy lifestyles and social responsibility. The company, based in Pittsburgh and projecting over $100 million in sales in the heavily competitive drink and energy business, took on two elite investors this past year (two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald of the LA Rams and NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks), and immediately set out to find ways to give products to first responders helping fight Covid-19 and kids who were struggling with remote learning and isolation. Ready Nutrition had the two stars target organizations that needed their help and delivered thousands of their protein drink to the hardest hit hospitals in places like Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and New York. They also delivered thousands of bottles to first responders fighting the California wildfires, and have implemented a program tying their bottles to tell positive stories of race relations through their partnership with the AAU and the Black Lives Matter movement.
This popular board game has a free supplementary platform, Strat School, that can help young students, especially budding sports fans, learn math, writing, and more. The educational platform also offers detailed lesson plans for teachers and parents interested in using the game as a teaching device. For example, Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express helps children learn about making decisions using probability, computing statistics like batting average and ERA, and developing writing skills with simple game recaps, among others. The emphasis on math and statistics and quick computation comes with each dice roll and ways to encourage students to learn more about the players from sets like the Hall of Famers and Negro League Stars. How often is this particular batter likely to get a hit or home run? Which relief pitcher would be most effective against the upcoming batter? How is ERA calculated? What are the key moments of the game to include in a written recap? What more can students learn about particular historically significant players? In the fun environment of playing Strat-O-Matic baseball, all of these educational benefits are possible. Not bad for a board game.
Unilever's first-ever social impact brand started in-house, the head to toe soap brand gives away 30 percent of their proceeds to fund mobile shower units for the homeless. They launched exclusively in Whole Foods in 2019 and are now in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Walmart.com among others.
Social impact is currently more important than ever. As a result, all entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with companies that are committed to social impact and that are reaping the benefits from this commitment. Doing so will not only help to make your business more meaningful, but it will also help you to recruit and retain the best talent and make your business more appealing to customers, vendors, and investors.