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How to Tell Your Brand's Social Impact Story Authenticity, Philanthropy and Sustainability can be the Cornerstones of Success.

By J. Michael Prince

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Julia Lazebnaya | Getty Images

No matter your brand, you have a story to tell about your impact on society. Figuring out how best to tell that story is the challenging part. Is it about the impact of your product or service, or the entrepreneurship of your founder? If you can't figure out a story to tell, talk to your employees and customers about what the company means to them. Finding, and proudly telling your brand's social impact story makes your company interesting, sellable, and even newsworthy.

Consider the example of Apple. It's legacy of impacting society through innovations and sleek, consumer-friendly designs dates back to the original desktop Macintosh in 1976. Until his death, Steve Jobs was the face of Apple and its chief storyteller. While it's more challenging without Jobs, Apple continues to build its image as the world's most innovative brand – one that changed how society communicates and lives.

For us at U.S. Polo Assn., our design inspiration comes from our authentic connection to the sport of polo, which encompasses over 130 years of tradition, heritage and classic American styling. The United States Polo Association (USPA) was created in 1890, and today serves as the national governing body for the sport of polo in the U.S. Today, U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the USPA, gives a portion of its revenue to the sport to support its positive impact on American culture and athletics. The vision of USPA Global Licensing (USPAGL), the subsidiary of the USPA that manages the global multi-billion-dollar U.S. Polo Assn. brand, is to continue to speak authentically to the sport of polo. We believe that when you buy a U.S. Polo Assn. product, you own a piece of the sport and its legacy.

We are also using in-store technology and innovation to further connect our brand and our customers to polo. Our new High Goal/High Energy Store references polo competition at the highest levels. We have created experiential programs inside retail stores such as selfie stations with polo backdrops and live-streamed polo games.

Let philanthropy inspire your brand

The story of your company's social impact can be further enhanced through authentic, on-brand philanthropy. Corporate philanthropy can boost employee engagement, enhance customer and partner relationships, and of course, amplify your positive impact in the world. By carefully selecting a charity that fits your mission, you can become associated with causes that help to further build out your positive story. Philanthropy also helps build credibility, which in turn elevates your brand with perceptions of expertise and trustworthiness.

One example of effective corporate philanthropy comes from e-commerce pet store Chewy, which partnered with the Humane Society during the COVID-19 lockdowns to donate $1 million in food and supplies to pet owners in underserved rural areas. By shipping free supplies to communities that might otherwise be unable to access veterinary products, Chewy leveraged its brand's differentiator—direct to consumer shipping—into an authentic act of philanthropy.

Philanthropy has also proven to be powerful for the U.S. Polo Assn. A portion of our revenue goes to the ongoing operations of the USPA which includes events, tournaments, player development, club support, supporting injured players, and bolstering equine welfare.

In addition, the U.S. Polo Assn. brand sponsors polo games around the world and contributes to related charities including the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge's Royal Charity Cup, Polo Africa, Queens Cup Pink Polo in Thailand, Manipur Statehood Day in India and the Susan G. Komen Women's Polo and the Annual Collegiate Partnership Program in the U.S.

Stick to Sustainability

If you haven't looked at the sustainability aspect of your business, start now. Trends show that consumers are prioritizing environmental impact when making purchases. They are drawn to companies that share their own interest in protecting the planet. There are so many options across nearly all industries now that consumers will seek, and likely find, sustainable items that are comparable in price and similar in quality, but that don't come at the environment's expense.

This year, U.S. Polo Assn. celebrated Earth Day 2021 with the official global launch of USPA Life™, the brand's holistic and long-term sustainability program that includes significant global product initiatives. While we had been selling denim made from recycled water bottles for several years, we have really stepped it up with this initiative. Our goal is to make a major impact and leave the world in a better place than how we found it. For example, we are working to institute recycled packaging and making our signature polo shirts and other apparel from high quality recycled yarns and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) sustainable cotton. Since these efforts take time to implement on a global level, we consider sustainability a marathon and not a sprint, but so far, the feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive.

Start Now

Don't wait for what you think might be the right time to dive into social impact storytelling, philanthropy, and sustainability. These initiatives will reach consumers in ways you never realized, and they will become a meaningful part of your brand's authentic story moving forward.

J. Michael Prince

President and CEO of USPA Global Licensing

J. Michael Prince is president and CEO of USPA Global Licensing, the worldwide licensor of the multi-billion-dollar U.S. Polo Assn. brand, which is the official brand of the United States Polo Association (USPA).

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