Less is More: What Minimalism Means to the Future of CSR
This is the ninth blog post in an ongoing series focusing on the meaning, implementation, function and future of corporate social responsibility.
Minimalism, defined by stripping works down to their most bare essentials, has made an immense impact on the art world. From the hypnotic repetition of composers like Philip Glass, to the bare, angular paintings of Piet Mondrian; minimalism has reframed how we see art and its relation to us as people. However, this reframing has far extended past the realms of art.
Two examples of minimalist art (Left: Piet Mondrian’s “Composition C,” 1935 / Right: Tony Smith’s “Free Ride,” 1962)
Whether it is how we dress, what we eat, or how we structure our lives, the 21st century has seen a public embrace of minimalism, stripping away the unnecessary or redundant and streamlining modern life. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the concepts of minimalism have been applied to the world of business and marketing, with very promising results.
However, it may be somewhat confusing to find the application of minimalism outside of abstract. Sure, the concept of minimalism is easy enough to understand when viewing a painting, but how can those same ideas be applied to complex companies with supply-chains, shareholders, marketing and so much more? The answer is not a complete reframing of how business works, but which elements are (and are not) essential to its success.
Minimalism in Three Words
The definition of minimalism can be any variation of style or technique “characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” This is all well and good, but what innate properties does this concept have outside of an emphasis on less? Stripping minimalism itself down to its bare essentials, Business.com offers an extremely handy outline of the three core principles of minimalism, along with their role and function within the corporate world.
1: Mindfulness – “Mindfulness is awareness.” In essence, a minimalist approach to business relies on an awareness of all the moving pieces of a business, using them to learn, grow and thrive. This requires businesses to be realistic and check their ego, seeing challenges as an opportunity to do better in the future.
2: Intention – “Intention is purpose.” Purpose – in loose terms – is the high-level mission of a company, thus a minimalist’s approach to intention is to refine and streamline every step of a company’s production pipeline to reflect and promote their mission. Stripping away everything which is contradictory toward or invasive of a company’s mission leaves a business with a refined and effective core to continue building upon.
3: Freedom – “Freedom is flexibility.” Cutting out the superfluous only gives businesses more resources to invest back into. A minimalist approach slashes overheads and redundancies, giving businesses the freedom to experiment, look for unique solutions, or ensure an even higher quality of product.
These three concepts are the pillars of applying a minimalist mindset to your business, giving context to the minimalist mindset along with a solid base on which to apply it to the unique challenges and goals of your own business. Let’s zoom in further to how this all relates to CSR implementation and customer activation.
Minimalism as a CSR Solution
What is your business? What do you sell? What service do you provide? What is your purpose?
Answering the first three of these questions should be simple, however a concrete answer to the fourth may be somewhat illusive. Every business has a cardinal purpose: to survive, to thrive, to continue to be, i.e. to make a profit. Purpose should transcend these baseline needs, and look deeper within the people running and working at the company. A tough question like What impact does your company want to have on the world? is not just a thought exercise, but a fundamental question which requires answering.
Maybe your company wants to make products people rely on, or products which bring them happiness and human connection. Maybe you want to use business to give back to your community, or help address global issues like disease and climate change. No matter the mission, once a company’s purpose is solidified, the first step in minimalism is to cut out everything which does not in some way help enact or support this core mission.
A business’s CSR goals and mission should be working hand in hand, and often are working toward the same goal. With this in mind, minimalism is not only a great framework to promote efficiency, but to publicly show commitment to social responsibility promises and goals. In an article for EPSNews, Barbara Jorgensen highlights this process through the lens of the supply chain, stating “If suppliers cannot meet sustainability requirements, is it really worth the short-term profits over a long-term environmental impact?” While her remarks focus specifically on climate, her core point rings true for all businesses: the benefits of a commitment to purpose far exceed the short term perks of not doing so.
However, minimalism doesn’t just simplify and unify systems and the company-wide approach, but gives companies and their employees more resources to use for internal and external growth. We have already lightly touched upon this concept in the “Freedom” principle section above, highlighting how a focus on eliminating redundancies can save costs to be spent elsewhere. However – through the lens of CSR – minimalism saves another extremely valuable resource: time.
Every business has run up against the wall of time, finding the days too short to get everything accomplished. This is especially true of marketers and CSR professionals, who find that building lasting, authentic, and strong relationships – especially with customers – is a time consuming process. However, using minimalism as a guiding light, companies can reform their day to day activities to promote working smart and adding time to work toward their purpose.
Through the framework of marketers, Forbes turned to their Communication Council to look for groundbreaking ideas to save time to spend activating and engaging customers. The 13 council members they interviewed all had unique ideas, but all revolved around simplifying the process and cutting out the unnecessary. While not directly framed through the lens of minimalism, the approaches presented in this article fulfill the core principles of minimalism, displaying its usability to reshape CSR programs like customer activation.
Impactree as a Minimalism Solution
The Forbes article listed above highlights an essential element of minimalism when viewed through the lens of CSR: compilation of resources. The proverbial one-stop-shop solution offers many benefits to companies, terminating redundancies of documents, web pages, and links – among other things. However, what if the same could be done with an entire CSR program, putting all actions, incentives, and information all in one place? Impactree is that minimalist solution.
Instead of badgering customers with dozens of links through surveys, petitions, videos and documents, Impactree can offer all of this under one link. Whether embedded on a business’ own site or hosted on our platform, Impactree lets brands centralize their CSR programs in a streamlined, fully customizable location.
From taking fun brand surveys, to earning prizes and entering contests, all of a company’s corporate social responsibility ambitions can be achieved with Impactree. However, the benefits do not cease there. As long as customers have joined a company’s group, that business will see the causes which their customers are most passionate about in real time. This gives a new strategy to customer activation, engaging them on issues which they truly care about.
If your company is trying to streamline how it does business, embracing the minimalist approach, then Impactree is a solution to CSR needs, providing a unique location to collect, share and promote your company’s purpose.
There are many schools of thought on how to run a business and to what end. Yet, few are as widely applicable, adaptable and useful as minimalism. Oftentimes, the bare essentials are all we need to be successful, and resisting our natural urge to over-complicate is a great skill to work on.
Minimalism offers businesses a way to cut the fat while not resorting to cost-slashing and layoffs; instead, the minimalist approach asks how to get more out of what a business already has, not reducing it down for reduction’s sake.
To learn more about how Impactree can simplify your CSR program and customer activation, fill out the form below to schedule a call.