Today more than ever, environmental concerns and social responsibility are driving business decisions and behavior around the world.
One way in which these values have manifested themselves is the way companies engage in gift giving, particularly with prospects and customers. The types and quality of gifts have evolved significantly over the years, transitioning from inexpensive, generic, and often wasteful items to more thoughtful and considerate offerings designed to project a more conscientious and impactful image.
Such sustainable and ethical corporate gifting practices are on the rise, reflecting companies’ growing awareness of the role they play in the world and their determination to have a more positive impact on the environment and society at large. Evidence suggests this is not just a trend—there appears to be a fundamental change in the way businesses are interacting with each other and their stakeholders, as well as the larger world.
A Short History of Corporate Gifting
The act of corporate gifting is rooted in the tradition of building relationships with, and expressing appreciation for, customers, prospects, and employees, presenting them with token—a pen, a letter opener, a polo shirt—that had the added advantage of providing a constant reminder of the brand.
As the awareness and importance of sustainability and ethics started to grow among consumers, these same values began to permeate the corporate world as well. Traditional gifts such as branded calendars and other desk accessories began to lose their appeal as recipients grew concerned about their environmental impact and lack of personalization.
Quick to respond to the shifting landscape, companies today are increasingly adopting more sustainable and ethical approaches to their gifting processes. While cynics might insist this shift is driven by businesses pandering to consumer sentiment in a desperate attempt to protect their profit margins, changing mores suggest companies are equally motivated by a genuine desire to enhance the planet's well-being and societal progress.
These businesses have learned a fundamental lesson: by aligning their gifting practices with prevailing societal values, they can amplify their brand while contributing to positive change—a true win-win situation.
The Pursuit of Sustainability
“Sustainability” has become a holy grail of sorts for many businesses. Whether related to manufacturing, production, or sales, a large percentage of companies—at least in the U.S.—are pursuing sustainability as a corporate virtue that will earn them considerable public relations goodwill.
The primary goal of sustainable corporate gifting is to minimize the impact these items have on the environment. This is achieved by choosing products that are eco-friendly, ethically sourced, and have a minimal carbon footprint. That means that, rather than producing disposable and non-recyclable items, businesses are opting to give gifts that are made from recycled materials or renewable resources, or with materials that can be easily repurposed.
Sustainable gifts such as biodegradable stationery, reusable drinkware, and organic gift baskets have grown in popularity over the past several years. These gifts offer the dual advantages of conveying thoughtfulness while expressing a commitment to protect the environment. Better yet, by associating their brand with such eco-conscious alternatives, companies demonstrate that they are also interested in promoting a healthier planet.
Ethical considerations also play an important role in corporate gifting in the 2020s. Businesses go to great lengths to ensure the gifts they are giving are produced under fair labor conditions by companies that do not practice exploitative employment practices. This effort requires scrutinizing supply chains to eliminate any hint of labor violations and ensure that the gifts they give align with and reflect their overall commitment to social responsibility.
For truly committed companies, the pursuit of ethical corporate gifting extends to supporting marginalized communities and contributing to charitable causes. By choosing to procure their gifts from manufacturers that benefit disadvantaged groups, or by donating a portion of their profits to meaningful causes, businesses not only bolster their social standing but also cultivate a sense of pride and purpose that resonates with employees as well as customers.
The Power of Personalization and Thoughtfulness
Sustainable and ethical corporate gifting isn’t just about the production process, it’s about acknowledging the recipient’s value to the company. Generic, one-size-fits-all gifts don’t make the prospect or customer feel special. That’s why businesses today are opting for carefully selected items that reflect the recipient's interests, values, and needs. This move towards personalization and thoughtfulness is a testament to the growing understanding that meaningful gestures require genuine effort.
This personalization isn’t limited to the gift itself; it extends to the packaging and presentation as well. Eco-friendly and reusable materials are now favored over excessive and wasteful packaging. This minor and cost-effective adjustment not only enhances the recipient's experience, it also expresses the sender's commitment to a more environmentally conscious way of doing business.
Sustainable, Ethical Gifts Contribute to More Meaningful Relationships
The benefits of giving sustainable and ethical corporate gifts extend well beyond the physical presentation of the items. The act is actually a vehicle for establishing, building, and nurturing a lasting and meaningful relationship with the recipient. More than ever, customers today are looking to partner with companies and brands that share their values. Sustainable and ethical gifting is the first step in building a bridge between businesses and their prospects, customers, and employees.
By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and ethics, companies can establish themselves as responsible and trustworthy, which in turn leads to greater brand loyalty that encourages existing and potential customers to align themselves with these values. This sense of shared purpose and mutual understanding is the foundation of long-term partnerships.
Overcoming Challenges; Embracing Change
As with everything, this move towards sustainable and ethical corporate gifting is not without its challenges. One potential problem is the perception that eco-friendly and ethically sourced products are more expensive. However, this obstacle is overcome by growing demand, resulting in economies of scale that will make these products more accessible and cost effective.
Additionally, abandoning established practices requires a shift in mindset and education. Convincing companies accustomed to traditional gifting practices to adopt a more sustainable approach requires a considerable amount of education to explain the benefits of making such a change. Sharing stories of businesses that have successfully made the transition can play a pivotal role in convincing reluctant companies to give it a try.
Living Your Beliefs
Businesses today are under increasing scrutiny as their commitment to the environment and society is being questioned. By adopting a more sustainable and ethical approach to corporate gifting, companies can declare their values while moving from mere transactional relationship with customers and employees towards deeper, more meaningful connections.
OnFulfillment can help you source sustainable and ethical branded corporate gifts. Visit our online store for an idea about the breadth and depth of items available from virtually any provider, including brand-name companies.