In demonstrating this idea of achieving CSR by delivering untraditional value propositions to companies, I want to examine Transfair USA. Transfair is a NPO and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the US. Their goal is to get coffee roasters and retailers to request and purchase Fair Trade certified coffee from their suppliers. They initially held tight to their proposition of “we want to offer you a dose of social responsibility” and targeted customers (coffee roasters and retailers) who purchased goods with social responsibility as a primary/major consideration. Turnout was low. To identify other possible targets, imagine a Venn Diagram with coffee drinkers on the left and social responsibility enthusiasts on the right. Next they thought for sure that the “correct choice” was to choose the overlap of coffee drinkers and those who really care about social responsibility, but later realized that the further refined market size was too small.

As they started to interact with Starbucks as a potential customer, they really started considering this segment targeting problem caused by holding onto social responsibility as a primary message. When considering Starbucks’s selling strategy as offering the “coffee experience,” and the possibility of having enormous Starbucks as their customer, they were motivated to really act outside of the box. They thought to take the last part of the Venn, the coffee drinkers, as their target segment when talking with Starbucks Transfair’s Fair Trade coffee value proposition to Starbucks was consistently high quality, great taste coffee to get their way in. But ultimately the same result would occur: socially responsible coffee will end up in Starbucks stores.

Lesson: In conveying the value of CSR to a company, delivering propositions that are more industry-specific and relevant to the company’s core selling points may prove successful. Social responsibility may be framed as the secondary message. It will be an easier solution pill for the company to swallow. If traditional reasons just aren’t enough, we should allocate more of our effort to brainstorming these new value propositions.


Previous Pepsi Co.’s New Initiative Next Corporate Social Responsibility 2.0