Social Sustainability Roadmap 4th Stop – Customer Relations

Published on April 1, 2013

A series on CSR as a poverty reduction strategy & social innovation tool

Companies have a lot of relations: employee relations, community relations and now for the 4th stop on the Social Sustainability Roadmap – customer relations. As with their other relationships, companies with progressive CSR/sustainability strategies address consumer issues holistically.

They think about product education, accurate information and fair, non-discriminatory marketing practices. They also consider affordability, accessibility, customer privacy and product health and safety.

More and more companies will engage customers on healthy and sustainable lifestyles. For instance Unilever’s LifeBuoy Campaign aims to change the hand-washing behaviour of one billion people by 2015. Or P&G commits to convert 70 per cent of wash loads to cold by 2020 through its Tide’s Cold Water Campaign. Both campaigns encourage customers to save money and conserve the environment.

Recently talk has focused on how to promote sustainable consumer lifestyles. More people are asking: How do we maintain a high standard of living while limiting our consumption to just what we need? Or how do we shift western consumer models away from consumption of things and toward consumption of experiences? Or how do we redefine “the good life” to be about health and happiness rather than material wealth acquisition?

As companies wrestle with rising commodity prices and declining access to resources, they will be compelled to rethink their customer value proposition. There is great turbulence ahead. Companies need to refresh their business models in response to the social and environmental mega trends we will face over the coming two decades. If they do, they’ll be better positioned to build customer loyalty and grow market share.

As you travel along the Social Sustainability Roadmap you may find yourself face to face with big mega-trend consumer issues such as the growing gap between rich and poor, or aging populations – societal sea changes that will require equally as dramatic changes in how companies operate. If so, don’t dismay. Instead explore The Transformational Company qualities I developed for Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and learn how your company can join others in leading the way to a socially sustainable future.

For more information see: Customer Relations on the Social Sustainability Roadmap.

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