December 16, 2020

Year in Review: Community Building Through Corporate Social Responsibility

By Matthew Tilley
Categories

• In 2020, corporate social responsibility (CSR) wasn’t just about brands managing their images — it was an opportunity for those brands to be stewards and contributors to their local areas and communities at large.
• From the actions taken to the messages conveyed to the alliances formed, giving back and building community looked different than in the past.
• In this post, Valassis will review some of its CSR practices, detailing what each experience brought with it and how it’ll be applied in the years to come.

It’s clear that consumers want to be associated with brands that do something good while also meeting their personal needs. As everyone dealt with a global pandemic, economic recession, and social unrest in 2020, it was only natural for this impulse to increase. After all, we are all in this together.

That is why we thought it essential to cover corporate social responsibility and community building strategies — both here at Valassis and within our greater communities. As we did so, here are a few lessons to share as we celebrate the coming new year:

Equality Starts With Allies

Being an ally is more than recognizing oppression and learning about its origins. The strongest allies internalized social injustices, held themselves accountable, and established patterns focused on helping marginalized people through change and inclusion. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

We saw this year that everyone could be an ally. Men, women, people of all races, and those in the LGBTQIA+ community — it didn’t matter. It was all about lifting others through advocacy, recognizing systemic inequalities, listening to what people have to say about their experiences, and creating an inclusive environment through words and deeds.

Additional Insights:

The Way We Communicate Matters

Communication has evolved around social issues — most people feel much empowered to talk about the problems, and it was only a matter of time before businesses followed suit. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because taking a clear stance can make consumers feel better about doing business with a brand.

But authenticity matters, which means it’s imperative to be transparent in community outreach tactics — especially related to environmental stewardship and sustainability. At Valassis, our parent company has set goals to quantify the progress we’ve made to reduce energy consumption, divert waste from landfills, etc.

It’s even better when a brand’s core competencies can be applied to these efforts. Valassis has long been a supporter of the work of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. We’ve also taken steps to apply our technology to this great cause and engaged in communication around the community’s issue at large, paying close attention to geographic areas that provide the most significant opportunities for missing children to be found.

Additional Insights:

Long-Term Impact Starts With Small Steps

Our organization has a rich history of giving back, and we encourage the same of our team members. When our employees are involved in social outreach, initiatives get off the ground in new and creative ways. This sort of individual, personal involvement is how a community gets built and improved — inside and outside the workplace.

During the pandemic, many of our team members have embodied that spirit and gotten involved in helping others — from providing rent assistance and grocery delivery to tackling emergency home repairs.

Our team’s community-building efforts also included support for minority-owned businesses. Like our leadership team, employees took steps toward inclusivity by regularly promoting and frequenting businesses founded by minority groups. We saw other companies taking similar steps, including choosing minority-owned businesses as vendors or committing a certain percentage of shelf space to minority-owned brands. Sometimes, it’s the smallest of gestures that make the most significant difference in someone’s life.

Additional Insights:

Social impact and community-building initiatives are long-term objectives that are not limited to philanthropy — they’re ultimately about inspiring people and making our world a better place to live.

Matthew Tilley is a senior director of marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective. 

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