Corporate Social Responsibility is set to play a crucial role in marketing in 2021.
As Caroline Milanesi, Founder of The Heart of Tech pointed out (article published 23.01.2021 at www.forbes.com), corporate social responsibility and corporate social justice can no longer be a side project. The stakes are too high, not just for us as a society, but for business itself. Not taking action, not having a social impact plan will soon be seen as a weakness, a business risk that investors will not look upon favourably.
There's no question that what happened in 2020, both from a pandemic, and social unrest due to inequality, led many tech brands to go beyond their sexy and cool products and start to put more focus on impact and responsibility. Different reasons drive such a move from brands, but it is clear that customers and employees are both asking for more transparency and more significant commitments. Who you are as a brand and what you stand for matters, especially to Millennials and GenZers.
It was therefore fitting then that Microsoft used its keynote at CES this year, not to talk about its products, but to talk about where technology is headed, considering both the promise and the perils it brings and the responsibilities that the tech industry has to live up to the former and to minimize the latter.
As Microsoft's President, Brad Smith, walked the audience through a data center tour, he highlighted one of the promises for a healthier world that can arise from the innovation driven by the intersection between digital technology, energy technology, environmental science. Smith did not shy away from the perils and addressed the SolarWinds hack calling out the concerns governments have been having, switching the conversation from what they should do to what they expect the tech industry to do regarding areas such as privacy, cybersecurity and digital safety.
Other brands at CES talked about sustainability and accessibility. Samsung introduces a solar-powered TV remote control made with 77% recycled plastic. Samsung also added two accessibility functionalities to its new range of QLED and Neo QLED TVs a SeeColor app and a Sign Language Zoom. With the SeeColor app, a viewer with Color Vision Deficiency (CVD) can take a Colorlite® Test to optimize their viewing experience to their CVD levels. The Sign Language Zoom automatically recognizes and magnifies the sign language area for the hearing-impaired by up to 200%. Users can specify a sign language area and adjust the magnification by zooming in on the area and move the captions to avoid blocking the subtitle text.
Lastly, brands also talked about their philanthropic efforts, like Sony, which announced a $1.7 million product donation to the International African American Museum, scheduled to open in 2022 in Charleston, South Carolina. Through Sony's Global Social Justice Fund, the contribution will create displays and interactive experiences throughout the museum like a 32-foot wide, 7-foot high Crystal LED display, will be used to evoke emotional responses from visitors experiencing the journey of African Americans.
It is clear that 2020 has impacted our society in many different ways, including a stronger need from consumers to associate themselves with brands that reflect their values and choosing to take their money elsewhere when a company and its leaders do not live up to such values.
In 2020, we also saw the pressure employees have put on their organizations not through workers' unions but social media. Employees have the ability to speak up against the injustices that they see within tech corporations, either because of how workers are treated or because of how products are designed and developed.
These two trends tell us that if brands are not ready to take responsibility, their employees and their customers will hold them responsible.