Having a reputation as a responsible, ethical business is increasingly important to resonate with people , build trust, and maintain their confidence. So, from CSR to conscious marketing – we explore the differences, and look at how brands should approach responsible practices today.

Ethics in Business

Do you consider your brand to be ethical, considerate, and responsible?

In a world where people align their loyalty with the brands that resonate with their convictions, considering brand image and ethical reputation is critical.

Of course, business ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are nothing new. Brands have long known that being perceived as a force for good is critical for building trust and long-term brand relationships.

But today, maintaining a positive brand image often means more than investing in occasional acts of social responsibility, charity, or PR.

Your customers are smart! And in a more transparent, digital world than ever before, they want the brands that matter to them to show that they’re authentic and inclusive – and that they demonstrate their ethics through their actions, products, messaging, and more.

How do CSR and conscious marketing fit into this?

As customers expect more from the brands they engage with, single acts of CSR may not be enough to drive the full change that a truly ethical and relevant brand needs.

Adopting a conscious approach that prioritizes a people-first stance, and addresses ethics at a deeper level, is increasingly the answer for brands that want to evolve, and stay competitive.

Doing so means going beyond ‘lip service’ ethics which are done for brand-optics benefits alone, and adopting an authentic business framework that ingrains a conscious attitude through every layer of a business.

Now, that might sound like a big shift!

However, there are ways to help your brand become a platform for positive change gradually; from the language you use to the audiences you connect with, to the company ethos you follow, and more.

Conscious Marketing vs. CSR – How do they Differ?

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility (also known as Corporate Citizenship), describes a business model that is designed to help an organization be accountable to ethical, social, environmental and economic initiatives; and to do so in a way that also meets the expectations of stakeholders and shareholders.

In this sense, CSR is a business-first approach that allows organizations to be mindful of the impact they have on society, and to enhance and positively support key causes – from environmental initiatives, to community and societal change.

The form CSR takes will vary from business to business, but it is often delivered through occasional, short-term philanthropy, charity donations, or volunteer efforts. As a result, CSR programs often support public brand awareness and brand image perception, which can appeal to customers and talent, and also boost staff morale.

Because of the requirement for CSR to be accountable first to the business, organizations that adopt CSR tend to be larger in size (and have a larger impact on the environment and society). They therefore invest in CSR as a means to address and balance social responsibility, in addition to ensuring positive business optics.

What is conscious marketing?

Conscious marketing describes a top-down business process designed to permeate conscious and ethical thinking into every business action, policy, practice, and message.

As a people-first approach to marketing, advertising, process, and ethos across a business, conscious marketing helps brands embrace a more respectful, relevant, and kind way of engaging with customers. And, as a people-first, ethos-based model, conscious marketing can be achieved by an organization of any size.

Aligning a company’s mission with the values and principles of its customers, a conscious approach goes deeper than responsible messaging or CSR activities alone; it manifests itself through always-on, everyday business action and practice, to ensure responsibility and accountability everywhere. As a result, where occasional CSR programs support positive brand image perception, conscious marketing drives support by being truly relevant and aligned with customers’ convictions, acting as a foundation for growth and loyalty through good practice.

Is conscious marketing the same as corporate social responsibility?

With customers more aware than ever of the values, principles, and social impact that the brands around them have, prioritizing your approach to social responsibility has never been more important.

Both CSR and conscious marketing are options that enable responsibility, and contribute positively to ethical, environmental, and community initiatives.

However, the two differ in their foundations; CSR is more of an occasional ‘add-on’ initiative to a business’s priorities. It does not necessarily reflect the core of how that business operates, or the impact on its its customers, partners or staff.

In contrast, conscious marketing integrates ethical practice into actions across a business, such as:

  • creating inclusive internal processes and practices (such as removing microaggressions from language, or dedicating a percentage of a campaign spend to community and social causes)
  • choosing and supporting business partnerships, technologies, clients and staff that are diverse, ethical and inclusive
  • taking a respectful approach to marketing initiatives that adapt to people’s needs, i.e. serving messaging that’s considerate of its content and frequency, and avoids over-messaging (and as a result, also reduces ad spend waste),
  • …and much more
CSRConscious Marketing
Business optics-firstPeople-first
Supports social responsibility through set vocational programsSupports social responsibility through every business action
Occasional programsAlways-on, integrated through the business
Suits larger organizationsSuits all organizations
Appeals to people through positive brand imageAppeals to people through relevant, responsible actions that align with their convictions

Conscious with a Conscience

Taking any step to integrate ethical practice and social responsibility within your organization is, increasingly, the key to succeeding competitively, win trust, and ensure you’re seen as a ‘good actor’ in the marketplace.

The question of whether CSR or conscious marketing is the best fit for you depends – are you looking to adopt a light-touch, short-term action to boost your brand image and bottom line?

Or, do you want your reputation as an authentic, ethical business to run deeper; to make a conscious shift into transparent, responsible practices that build customer relationships and brand safety for the long term?

Making a conscious choice can help you to do just that.