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Brands and corporate social responsibility

By Corinne Day, an Associate in Irwin Mitchell's IP team

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives not only greatly benefit brand reputation, and profit, but also build on consumer trust and loyalty. Such initiatives are generally viewed as imperative in swaying consumer choices in purchasing and being loyal to a particular brand, products and/or services.

So what is CSR? CSR is a way of managing, identifying and improving the way in which a business impacts not only the environment but society as a whole, including its employees, its workers in its supply chain, its consumers and local communities. Social responsibility initiatives include sustainability drives; publically speaking out against social injustice; diversity initiatives; flexible working initiatives; fair labour practices and volunteering in the community.

Many large businesses have taken steps to improve the environmental sustainability of their operations, through actions such as installing renewable energy sources or offsetting carbon footprints. In managing supply chains, efforts have also been taken to abolish unethical labour practices, such as child labour and slavery. Small businesses have also adopted initiatives such as donating to local charities and sponsoring local events.

Below are some of the initiatives brands are adopting to drive CSR (and in turn, building a positive brand reputation):


Amazon has pledged that it will be using 100% renewable energy by 2025 and have also purchased 100,000 electric vehicles to be used for deliveries.


Ikea’s ambition is to become a climate positive business by 2030 – and it has plans to spend over £3bn to build wind and solar farms, while fitting its stores with electric vehicle charge points.


Unilever recently announced it will eliminate the word ‘normal’ from all its beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising, as part of the launch of a new “Positive Beauty” vision and strategy.


Unemployment is a major issue impacting society: H&M has recently launched a new service offering a 24 hour free suit hire for job interviews. H&M also has a number of sustainability initiatives and sells ‘conscious’ products i.e. products containing at least 50% sustainable materials.


Britvic’s CSR ambitions include transitioning to a low carbon circular economy by maximising energy efficiency and using renewable energy sources and to create a world where great packaging never becomes waste, all part of a ‘healthier people and healthier planet’ ethos.


Starbucks is looking to diversify their workforce and provide opportunities for certain groups. By 2025 it has pledged to hire 25,000 veterans as part of their socially responsible efforts. This hiring initiative will also look to hire more younger people with the aim of "helping jump-start careers by giving them their first job”. Further, Starbucks has joined with the UN Refugee Agency to hire 10,000 refugees by 2022.

And, of course, Irwin Mitchell. Irwin Mitchell is committed to helping communities, people, the environment and providing free legal advice support. For example, the Irwin Mitchell’s charity foundation has raised over £2m for charities and good causes. Irwin Mitchell is also hugely supportive of its employees, offering mental health first aid training and support as well as actively encouraging flexible working.

Many brands now view CSR as an integral part of their brand image and as absolutely necessary in an ever demanding consumer market.