Our account teams are always receiving interesting business questions and requests from our clients that often inspire us to think in different ways in order to come up with creative solutions. Recently, the most interesting thing we were asked was what the next ‘thing’ would be in CSR? So we sat down, brainstormed, researched and then wrote a post about it because we thought it was worth more than just our eyes on it.

 

When it comes to ethical practices, the onus is on the business. We want you to be good, but don’t make us pay for it: this is the message coming from global consumers.

So how can businesses respond to this demand in an age where there’s a crisis in trust across all institutions? We live in an era of post-truth precariousness, in which we’re more likely to trust our own emotions than we are a statistician – or, as Newt Gingrich likes to call them, ‘theoreticians’.

All too often, the approach to business ethics is peripheral CSR initiatives that do not come anywhere close to changing the underlying business model causing negative externalities. Then we hear about how important it is to be authentic, to live your values. And it is. But it is a treacherous road – trying to be authentic in our counter culture, paved with cynical citizens who jump at the opportunity to lambast you on social media and sign digital petitions at the drop of a hat. There’s also a growing movement of Pop Radicals; people who are energised by social issues and very vocally – but whose momentum lacks stamina.

We’ve identified three potential solutions that we feel exemplify a new age of ethical business in CSR that convinces the cynics:

 

1. Radical transparency

Our trend Blockchanging Everything speaks of the new and more secure ways to authenticate – and the first solution to proving that your brand is genuine comes as a reaction to consumer’s demand for more transparency. Provenance uses blockchain to keep a record of businesses’ supply chains, so there’ll be no more cooking the books when it comes to product origins and no more horse meat scandals. 1 in 3 Britons are sceptical about products claiming to be locally produced. By using blockchain, a brand can send the message that they have nothing to hide and can prove it, thus building trust from their customers.

 

2. Circular thinking

We’ve tracked Pragmatic Green since 2014 and found that consumers want brands to be ethical – 78% of people globally think that businesses should be penalised for failing to care for the environment. What’s even more interesting is that 58% of those people also think businesses should focus on value for money and minimise their social responsibility activities. Ultimately, consumers want brands to bear the responsibility without having to shift the cost to them. Companies are in a predicament – they have to constantly demonstrate their value without losing any of their green sheen. For inspiration, take Saltwater Brewery in Florida who decided to use their brewing by-products to create a biodegradable and compostable beer ring-pack. This not only makes economic sense by saving the cost of creating waste streams but taps into the pragmatic mindset of the consumer that does not want the bear the burden of recycling and the guilt that follows when they don’t. It’s innovations like this that people are expecting from businesses and what’s more – you can do good and make money, brands just need to innovate with the right business model.

 

3. Employee empowerment

We are going through a time of immense disruption, in which automation and portfolio careers are becoming the norm. Liquid Skills reports how lifelong learning and the upgrading of our skills is essential to survive in a volatile labour market. As Carmen, one our UK Trendspotters, puts it: “Becoming irrelevant is a definite driving force behind people furthering their knowledge and skills”. In fact, according to an Infosys report, 41% of 16-25 year olds think their current job could be done by computer programmes, robots or AI in 10 years’ time or less. Then there’s the majority of 62% of 16-25 year olds that believe the technologically unskilled will find it harder to get a job. To stand out as an ethical company, businesses can look to empower their workforce by offering study leave and rewarding progress to those that upskill or reskill.

 

Have you come across any businesses with a strong and genuine CSR program? We’d love to hear about it, tweet us at @futurethoughts