There was a clear appreciation, even admiration, for the 12 New Hampshire companies invited to tell their stories at the recent Sustainability Slam hosted by the New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility.

Each shared projects that demonstrated how they solved problems, dealt with challenges or created opportunities that, ultimately, made a positive impact on their business, their employees and their community.

Good stuff, for sure. It was one of several events the NHBSR puts on to spread the socially conscious works of their members.

The stated mission of the NHBSR is to “build and support a network of businesses committed to adopting socially responsible business practices, recognizing that people, principles and profits are inseparably linked.”

Are people, principles and profits inseparably linked? Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) really good for business?

The answer is yes, otherwise CSR would not succeed or even become an accepted part of a company’s brand.

Numbers Back CSR

According to a 2014 Nielsen study, sales increased for brands with sustainability claims on packaging or active marketing of corporate and social responsibility efforts. The study, which polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, came to a clear conclusion: “Brand’s social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decision.”

Here are four top takeaways from the study:

• 67% of those polled prefer to work for socially responsible companies.
• 55% will pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.
• 52% made at least one purchase in the past six months from one or more socially responsible companies.
• 49% volunteer and/or donate to organizations engaged in social and environmental programs.

Additionally, “consumers are more likely to buy products repeatedly from a company if they know the company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society.” And, millennials (age 21-34) appear the most responsive to sustainability actions.

Building a Better Business Model

The way we guide consumers along the buying journey has changed. A company’s social impact is increasingly affecting consumer behavior and trust and, in the process, redefining what it means to build brand loyalty.

Geoff McDonald, former VP for HR, Marketing, Communications and Sustainability for Unilever Global, once told an audience CSR is part of Unilever’s strategy to double its size. Unilever is a world-wide supplier of brands that include Hellmann’s, Lipton, Dove, Vaseline, Sure and Lifebuoy and they view sustainability as part of the core of its business model.

In other words, CSR is not just good, it’s good for your a business.

Consumers are looking to do business with companies that share similar ideologies, so they are investigating what a company believes in beyond the bottom line. Not surprisingly, more and more companies are paying greater attention to CSR and adopting strategic initiatives in an effort to better connect with their customers.

Making CSR Work Locally

Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, for example, recycles the electronic devices people are looking to discard, but they saw an opportunity to not only boost their business, but help more people.

As Heather Steeves of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England told the Sustainability Slam audience, the company receives 10 cents per pound on computers and the money helps fund the company’s workforce training programs; the problem is that the newer, more lightweight laptops were not generating a return that made sense.

“So here we had people in need of computers and a ton of computers we were practically giving away. We needed a better solution,” Steeves said.

The solution was to create a new division, called GoodTech, with a staff of 12 techs to refurbish higher-end computers, iPhones and tablets that are donated. Steeves said the computers are wiped to U.S. Department of Defense standards, “so you know your information will be wiped entirely off the hard drive before we add software back onto the device.”

Twelve news jobs were created for GoodTech, the needs of low-income people were met, potentially toxic waste material was recycled and a new revenue source was created for Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.

“These computers help people connect to jobs, which makes for more sustainable lives, more sustainable communities and a more sustainable Earth,” Steeves said.

CSR does work.