Impact Exchange

Social Impact from Product to Person

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Impact Exchange Season 2, EP 1: Social Impact from Product to Person
Special Guest: Michael Chaney; Director of Business to Business at Crate & Barrel
On this episode of the Impact Exchange, we were joined by Michael Chaney, Director of Business to Business at Crate & Barrel to discuss how large businesses can navigate social impact. Michael shared the initiatives that make up their legacy brand’s social impact strategy, including environmental initiatives, hunger and disaster relief, and advocating for girls rights.
The Great Retail Reset
Following the last two years, the world of retail has seen a shift in consumer behavior. In being more mindful of where they are spending their dollars, consumers are increasingly choosing to support brands whose values align with their own. They’re spending more time getting to know a brand beyond the product and are educating themselves on the impact that a brand has on society.
71% of Millennials are even willing to pay more for something if they know that some of the proceeds will go to charity. What this means for retailers is that it’s no longer enough to offer the lowest prices in a competitive market— the characteristics that are driving consumer purchasing behavior today are values, transparency, and trust.
How a Legacy Brand is Integrating Social Impact Throughout Their Business
Crate & Barrel, a 60-year old brand, is redefining the way that they look at corporate social responsibility (CSR). “We’ve realized that it’s [social impact] an ongoing mission; it’s not a trend, and it’s here to stay.” Michael shared that they created a cross-functional team within the organization to lead their social impact efforts. The purpose of this team is to put social impact as a north star for Crate & Barrel, align impact goals, and focus on striving to become a better organization in an effort to make the world a better place.
When it comes to social impact, Crate & Barrel has enabled a top-down approach. For them, getting everyone involved in the organization to play a role in making a difference, whether it’s C-suite leaders or employees working in fulfillment, is crucial. This is an important approach to not only get everyone onboard with the vision and goals of the company, but to also engage employees in a more meaningful work environment. With 61% of employees choosing, leaving, or considering employers based on their values and beliefs, purpose-driven organizations are going to stay competitive in the hiring process as more people make career decisions based on their values.
In creating open communication throughout the organization about their social impact efforts, Crate & Barrel is able to share the company’s goals of what they hope to accomplish that year and share how everyone can help contribute. Communicating impact goals across an organization helps to create transparent conversations amongst all employees, and is a practice that brands of all sizes can implement.
Aligning Purpose and Product
Authenticity is a key pillar when it comes to social impact. As mentioned before, consumers are spending more time researching what a brand stands for and just as greenwashing isn’t tolerated, neither are false claims of social impact and brand activism. Making a statement on social media regarding a societal issue isn’t enough— today’s consumers want to know what actions a brand is taking to enact positive change.
At Crate & Barrel, Michael discussed how their company identified what they valued and then aligned those values with nonprofit organizations like VOW for Girls, Feeding America, and Good360. “The question is, ‘where can we make the biggest impact?’ There are a lot of opportunities out there but if you go after all of them, it becomes less important. But when you really focus on certain areas that are meaningful to your business and the people involved in your business, it really feels like you’re making a difference”.
For Crate & Barrel, entertaining and being around the table is a key focus of their business, so they looked to nonprofit organizations whose missions aligned with their values. One of the organizations that Crate & Barrel supports is Feeding America, because they believe everyone should have a seat at the table and a meal to eat. And as a female-led organization, Crate & Barrel also chooses to support VOW for Girls, an organization focused on ending the international child marriage crisis.
A Holistic Approach to Sustainability
As a product-driven company, Crate & Barrel is on a mission to ensure they’re doing their part to help the environment, which is why sustainability is an important value to them. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and create ways for their business to be more sustainable, Crate & Barrel has partnered with Good360 to donate products to those in need. Through this partnership, Crate & Barrel is able to take the products that they can no longer utilize and donate them to someone who has been affected by a disaster, like a hurricane or fire. This initiative helps them reduce the amount of products that end up in a landfill and enables them to support those in need.
Crate & Barrel has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2030, and this is an initiative that is woven throughout their holistic strategy. One way they are doing this is by striving to have 100% FSC certified wood, meaning they will only use wood that comes from responsibly managed forests. They’re also looking at how they can make their packaging recyclable and how they can construct new buildings that are more eco-friendly.
When looking to make your brand more sustainable, it’s important to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. By utilizing the resources you have available to you, you can set realistic and timely goals to achieve a more sustainable business-model, no matter what size your business is. Start by looking to where you can make improvements and where you can find new resources to begin making changes. As Michael explains in the podcast, it’s people that make it happen, so practice open communication and collaboration across your organization to begin making impactful changes that will resonate with all involved.
The Tough Conversations are the Most Important to Have
After the 2020 pandemic and racial justice protests, consumers and employees are looking to businesses to take a stand and enact societal change. In fact, ​​53% of consumers believe brands can do more to solve social problems than governments. In 2020, we saw a lot of critical moments that put brands in a position to have uncomfortable conversations about what happens next, and what their role is in these times.
For Crate & Barrel, they looked back to their values in wanting everyone to have a seat at their table. Regardless of race, gender, age, political and religious beliefs, they believe that everyone has the right to be heard, accepted, and welcomed. Following the racial justice events, Crate & Barrel formed a Diversity and Inclusion team to focus on making their organization more inclusive and to bring more attention to the problem at hand. And as Michael discussed, there’s always room for improvement. “We’ve done a good job of this [inclusion], but we can always do better. And we’ve seen that in how we reacted and how we brought someone in to focus on that”.
Be Part of the Social Impact Movement
If there’s one thing that you take away from this podcast, let it be that it’s never too late to do the right thing. Even legacy brands like Crate & Barrel started with a simple goal of wanting to make the world a better place, and has since expanded on that vision to integrate social impact throughout their organization. When getting started with social impact, it’s crucial to set goals, align values, track progress, and evaluate initiatives as you go to determine what’s working and what isn’t.
Furthermore, a great way to gain inspiration is from connecting with other like-minded companies or individuals. As Michael shared, when you have someone to talk to and can discover what other people are doing, you can bounce ideas off each other and come up with ways to improve together. Like-minded companies present great opportunities, and the insights you can gain from having those conversations is invaluable in your social impact journey.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about Michael’s perspective on the following:
  • How large brands can navigate social impact
  • How social impact can be integrated throughout a brand, from product to person
  • How all brands can get their employees involved in social impact efforts
We hope you enjoy this episode of The Impact Exchange, until next time...stay healthy, stay mindful, and create impact.
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