The 2012 spring release of Williams-Sonoma, (WS) Inc.’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) Report didn’t make news headlines. Perhaps it should have, as it marked the corporation’s first report of its kind and there are some compelling results to share. A more informal communications strategy with storytelling and anecdotal snapshots of impact via social media channels would speak right to the interests of consumers who are hungry for news about doing good with the brands they trust. Here are the highlights.
Connecting with cause. PBteen (Pottery Barn’s aptly named line of furnishings) created “Giving Pillows” to connect teens with issues they care about—such as the environment, childhood poverty, and community development. It’s a smart strategy to cultivate younger consumers of the Millennial generation who self-identify as socially responsible and active.
Well done: Through partnerships with the Student Conservation Association, Trees for the Future, the Surfrider Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of America, and DoSomething.org, PBteen donated $5 per pillow cover purchased to the corresponding cause. By working with charities already established in these important spaces, PBteen showed a commitment to aligned causes and dedication to partnerships.
Needs some work: This type of campaign is ideally suited to digital outreach and viral communications. If PBteen were to expand the campaign, a storytelling campaign on Facebook (i.e. teens can share how they make a difference in their communities) or incentivized digital actions (i.e. watch a video on the Surfrider Foundation’s work and unlock $1 donation) could enhance impact (awareness for nonprofit partners, PBteen CSR work, product offering, and ‘cool’ factor of brand).
Engaged Employees. The CR report has three pages dedicated to associates (WS’ name for all of its employees) making a difference from within.
Well done: This was, without question, the most impressive part of Williams-Sonoma’s report. By giving a face, a name, and a voice to eight associates, the company does three brilliant things:
1) Appreciates cause. Through quotations and active pictures of WS employees (biking, boating, cooking, etc.), the whole conveys an authentic connection and appreciation for its parts. Instead of appearing superficially tied in with myriad causes, when individual associates call out their issues, the company is naturally united with that cause.
2) Accepts change. Each employee suggests a way in which WS can be socially responsible. WS is not only tacitly acknowledging the importance of change from within, it’s embracing it!
3) Acknowledges room for growth. These three pages exhibit honest ways in which the company can continue to grow, through the tagline: “How she[/he] makes us more responsible.” This line is so simple, yet intricately worded to convey the importance of WS associates and their ideas; to infer that the company could be less responsible without these individuals; and by using the word responsible, tacks on a thoughtful way of engaging with its employees and the world.
Sustainability. One of the primary raw materials used in Williams-Sonoma and its subsidiaries’ (Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm, Rejuvenation) products is cotton.
Well done: By moving to 12% of its cotton textiles to organic, the company stresses the importance of sustainable solutions.
Needs some work: The report notes that in the future, WS commits to “maintain at least 10% or more organic cotton in our textiles.” The “future” needs to be more clearly defined. 2012 report? Annual updates? Sliding scale? There’s no way to measure success.
Also, why the decrease from its current 12% organic cotton to 10%? Why not set the bar high—say 24% (I like when companies try to double their progress)—and report back in a year on whether or not that goal was attainable? It’s more interesting to see companies set high goals and report back on how they got there—earning accolades—or explain why they didn’t.
I’m curious to hear your reactions. Where do you think Williams-Sonoma can take the lead? How?
Photo Credits: Screenshots via http://www.williams-sonomainc.com/corpimgs/i/20121