On a typically gorgeous day on the campus of University of Southern California, the Class of 2014 commencement speech was delivered this spring by former USC graduate Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of SalesForce. The company’s commercial success is well documented, as is its commitment to social responsibility, with its 1-1-1 platform: Give 1% of profit, 1% of equity, and 1% of employee time to benefit non-profits and social causes. Benioff’s social commitment is not unique, but the uncalculated manner in which he embedded this social platform into the brand’s early DNA makes him a pioneer in the CSR space. He did not have a blueprint for a specific social agenda, nor a crystal ball to show what tangible benefits may be created – he just knew it was the right thing to do.
When revolutionary new business models naturally adopt social platforms from ground zero, it is a game-changer and the paradigm shifts. CSR has emerged from the shadows to the forefront of both corporate and public attention.
In February, CVS took an audacious stand with its decision to withdraw tobacco products from its shelves, and thus forfeit over a billion dollars in annual revenue. The event became the genesis for “The CVS Effect,” a now-ubiquitous term referring to broad policies that transcend the immediate financial consequences of implementing them, and seek to place the brand firmly in the sphere of socially positive values and agency. The wave continues to sweep across many blue-chip brands:
- Apple demonstrates its commitment to renewable resources – 145 of their retail stores in the US, and all of their stores in Australia, are now powered entirely by renewable energy.
- Disney discontinues their financial support of Boys Scouts of America as it takes a stand for equal rights in the face of BSofA’s discriminatory policies regarding gay troop leaders.
- Kroger and Safeway join Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other grocery retailers in pledging to boycott the sale of GMO salmon, a new food category which is currently pending approval by the FDA.
- Tesla Motors is opening their proprietary technology to the public in an effort to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles worldwide.
- Starbucks has pledged to help fund college education for its workers.
Bold examples emerge every week, and from all corners of the globe. The greatest legacy of these efforts is that the psyche of doing business has fundamentally changed. Nearly every new business is, at a minimum, considering their social responsibility as they define their brand, and that will profoundly impact our world in the decades ahead. In a nod to Spike Lee’s film, Do the Right Thing (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year), it is an idea whose time has come.
Alchemy celebrates the exceptional, visionary business artists that have paved the way for this sea change. We aspire to be a catalyst – helping emerging and established brands activate their socially conscious voice through resonant and effective creative development.
Blending art, commerce and humanity to build brands and communities across the globe