Guest Post by Kiel Hume, a PR professional based in Toronto. You can connect with Kiel on Twitter at @kielculture.
Now that CSR initiatives are standard practice amongst most corporations, standing out can be difficult. Companies must chose issues that matter to consumers, be willing to invest in the cause and try to realistically make a difference.
While not every CSR campaign will make headlines, corporate responsibility is changing the way communicators work with media and stakeholders to give corporations a public face.
Below are three recent and ongoing CSR campaigns that have been game-changers in Canada. What is a “game-changer”? Game-changers are CSR campaigns that set a new standard for corporations hoping to get involved in social issues and responsible practices; they each add something unique and innovative to the ways businesses can approach social change.
- Huggies – Every Little Bottom
Huggies got just about everything right with their Every Little Bottom CSR campaign: they got the media and public involved in an important issue; they invested in a North-American-wide marketing and PR campaign; they partnered with relevant social organizations; and they empowered customers to get involved and keep the cause alive beyond the brand.
The company conducted a large-scale study to determine how many needy families are unable to provide diapers for their babies. This issue, which had previously received little recognition, was a relevant and important cause. At the end of 2010, Huggies donated a million diapers to Food Banks Canada and food banks organizations in the U.S. Throughout 2010, the company also worked with superstar celebrity Ellen Pompeo and Girl Guides Canada to promote the study and their work to help mothers in need. In 2011, Huggies expanded the program to include a Hockey for Huggies partnership with the NHL. Diaper drives were held at games across Canada and the U.S.
The most important part of this campaign, however, is how it empowered consumers to get involved. Visitors to EveryLittleBottom.com could find information about starting their own diaper drives, download posters to promote diaper donations in local communities and learn more about the issue. Consumers were able to use these tools to start their own diaper campaigns and give the issue their own momentum. Importantly, because of Huggies work on this issue, diapers are now part of the list of acceptable donations to Food Banks Canada.
- Pepsi – Refresh Everything
Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Campaign set a new standard for innovation in social media and CSR. With a publicized website Pepsi invited Canadian individuals, groups and organizations to submit ideas that will have a positive social impact. There were no qualifications: all good ideas with social benefits were welcome. After accepting online submissions Pepsi used all of social media’s best collaborative qualities to allow people to vote for ideas they like. The result? Great ideas chosen by the Refresh Everything community, coming to life with Pepsi’s help.
Every two months, up to $200,000 is given away, in varying amounts, to qualifying ideas. Projects can focus on one of six designated social areas: health; arts and culture; food and shelter; the planet; neighborhoods; and education. The best part, however, is there’s something for every idea, no matter how small. Funding comes in $5,000 or $10,000 for individuals and small groups and $25,000 or $100,000 for companies and organizations.
- Bell – Let’s Talk Day
Bell’s Let’s Talk Day started a conversation about mental health in Canada. The campaign strove to remove the stigma around the issue, something that is much more prevalent than most people realize. As a subject that is difficult to address both publicly and privately, Bell’s high-profile CSR and accompanying ad campaign were a large-step forward for mental health public awareness in Canada.
On February 9, 2011, Bell donated five cents for every text and long distance call across Canada. In total, Bell has pledged $50 million over five years to support mental health initiatives across Canada. Associations and institutions of any size, with a focus on mental health, can apply for funding through the Let’s Talk campaign.
Like the other campaigns in this list, Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign is another example of a CSR initiative that makes a difference beyond the corporate branding. Through partnerships with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Kids Help Phone, the United Way and the Mental Health Commission amongst others, Bell’s Let’s Talk will work to fund long-lasting research and awareness initiatives long after the billboards have come down.