For many years, it seemed as if companies that got involved in social causes were either doing so for a public relations campaign or were not creating revenue as a result. However, the corporate attitude toward activism and social responsibility has evolved in recent years. Perhaps more executives realize that getting involved in local causes or global issues is deeply rewarding on a personal level and may prove profitable.

recent study from TBWA Worldwide revealed more people are judging companies based on their efforts to solve social problems. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of young adults said they think companies “should use their knowledge and resources to help societies solve problems.”

While you may think that this metric is unimportant, especially if younger adults are not within your target demographic, avoid the temptation of being short-sighted. The people who hold these beliefs today will age, earn more, and eventually become your ideal client. In all likelihood, they will still think corporations have an obligation to their communities and society as a whole. Already, 74 percent of responding young adults said they prefer to purchase products and services from socially responsible companies. McKinsey Society reported on the BAV Asset Valuator which identified in a recent survey of consumer populations in 18 countries that 63 percent of respondents said they make it a point to buy from “companies whose values are similar to their own.”

Work for others, and make it work for you
I have often advocated on this blog that when a company or individual executive chooses to engage in charitable programs or social involvement, the primary reason for doing so should be a personal desire to contribute to the community.

That said, you can also get the most out of those efforts by applying the good will back toward your business. Let your clients and prospects know that you were involved in a recent 10K for a cancer foundation. Advertise on your website that you will match charitable donations up to a certain amount. Trying to recruit talent? Share the company’s vision of turning a profit without detracting from (and actually helping to improve) society.

As the TBWA study found, many young, talented job seekers identify themselves as social activists, and more than two-thirds would like to work for a company that supports the same causes they do. In the past, social responsibility and profitability may have seemed like mutually exclusive terms. However, more businesses are investigating how they can align revenue-generating activities with societal programs. Consider how you can use social responsibility efforts to boost profits and corporate morale at the same time.