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Spotlight on Social Responsibility: Best Practices for Conscientious Retailers

Social Responsibility
Photograph: Shutterstock

When choosing where to shop, consumers’ priorities are as multifaceted as ever. Fair prices and great service aren’t enough to convert and retain values-driven shoppers; these consumers seek retailers whose values reflect with their own. Especially as younger consumers begin to take up a larger portion of the retail market—and as global events bring social responsibility to the forefront—social responsibility is becoming a must-have rather than a nice-to-have among retailers. In fact, 59% of convenience-store shoppers say that charitable giving is an important consideration when they choose a c-store to shop at, and 73% of grocery-store shoppers say they find social responsibility important.

Still, retailers must keep their margins in mind. Fortunately, there are strategies for conscientious retailers to expand their social impact without shouldering too great a cost or time commitment—and to use their contributions as a platform to share their values with consumers.

For retailers seeking to start or expand the ways in which they contribute, a helpful first step is to take a closer look at which causes their consumers care about most. Sustainability, food waste and community outreach, for example, are chief social concerns among retailers and consumers alike. For retailers, social responsibility isn’t limited to offering ethically made products on their shelves; it involves operational choices, too, such as what deciding what to do with leftover and surplus food.

Food waste is an unfortunate reality for many retailers, especially for grocers and convenience stores who center their businesses around retail food and foodservice. Food waste is a greater contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than many may realize—in fact, U.S. food waste has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry, the Washington Post reports. What’s more, wasted food represents a lost opportunity to feed someone who’s hungry, with approximately 35 million Americans experiencing food instability, according to the USDA.

Especially as grocers and c-stores expand their foodservice offerings—possibly while facing fluctuations in demand amid the recovering market—managing food waste is an especially important part of any retailer’s sustainability efforts.

Consumers aren’t just talking the talk in terms of the causes they care about. Shoppers across categories have an increasing proclivity to vote with their wallets, even when it means paying a premium. Again, sustainability concerns offer a prime example: Most consumers say they’ll change their shopping habits in order to become more environmentally friendly. This can include anything from changing the products they buy to rethinking which stores they choose to shop at.

In short, forming a philosophical alignment with consumers and improving shopper loyalty go hand in hand.

It’s for this reason that putting socially conscious ideals into practice isn’t solely in service of community impact and brand image. By finding cost-effective ways to increase social responsibility and to communicate those efforts to shoppers, grocers and c-stores can boost their margins and increase their sales among purpose-driven consumers. Conveying social responsibility can be simple: Retailers can use digital communications and in-store marketing, for example, to pull back the curtain on the positive changes they’re making and keep customers shoppers coming back.

For grocers and c-stores, amping up food rescue efforts can be an extremely effective—and affordable—step toward increasing social impact. Food waste represents one of the greatest lost opportunities for retailers to contribute to both sustainability goals and community outreach in one fell swoop. Fortunately, with solutions and expertise from Feeding America, retailers can turn wasted food into an opportunity for generosity in a snap.

Feeding America’s MealConnect platform brings simplicity and safety to food rescue efforts, enabling retailers to decrease their food waste and increase their charitable impact without shouldering a significant cost or time commitment. With the MealConnect app, all a retail employee has to do is go to the platform and post a picture of the surplus food item they want to donate. Then, a volunteer will pick up the donation. It’s that simple; without making a direct monetary contribution or delivering any merchandise, retailers can make tangible change in their stores’ communities.

To start making a positive impact—and to draw in sales from socially conscious shoppers—visit www.mealconnect.org.

This post is sponsored by Feeding America and Meal Connect

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