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The Holy Trinity of Corporate Social Responsibility

Some things go better together in threes; a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke, for instance. Or, Crosby, Stills and Nash. Or, Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Or, Groucho, Chico and Harpo. Or, Newton’s Laws of Motion. Or, faith, hope and charity.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that companies which face the consumer better do three things well: practice corporate social responsibility; have a strong green tint; and, engage in cause marketing.

Time was when companies could pick one of the three and be fine. But the corporate environment has changed.

Now companies like Starbucks have altered consumer expectations and demands of what corporate social responsibility means. Starbucks pays its employees fairly and offers benefits. It sells fair-trade coffee to benefit its farmer-suppliers. It works to lower its environmental footprint. And it does smart cause marketing.

Like no other large company, Starbucks practices the Holy Trinity of corporate social responsibility.

Starbucks, along with Coke, Amazon, Fedex, Apple, Target, Ford, Nike, Southwest and Nordstrom are the April 2012 cover of Entrepreneur magazine as the “10 most trusted brands” today.

And Entrepreneur’s list represents, for the most part, companies who actively engage in the holy trinity of corporate social responsibility.

Coke, Target, Ford, Fedex, and Nike practice all three to varying degrees.

Apple does cause marketing with (RED) and is getting greener. But the worker suicides at factories where Apple products are made are a human tragedy and a corporate black eye.

Neither Nordstrom nor Southwest are renowned for being green or engaging in cause marketing. But both have celebrated internal cultures, an important element of CSR

Amazon is, I think, the exception that proves the rule.

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