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Victoria’s Secret is selling sexy. For years, this value proposition was working. But a significant shift in the lingerie industry has made inclusivity, body positivity, and women empowerment as the new sexy. With startup brands such as Aerie, Lively, Adore Me, Third Love, and Savage X Fenty embracing feminist stance, Victoria’s Secret’s popularity is lagging behind. Amidst the declining sales, the brand is taking measures to respond to the call of the times. Victoria’s Secret is struggling, and this stands as proof: the benefits of a social impact strategy definitely goes beyond profit.

At the height of its popularity, Victoria’s Secret was raking in $7 billion annual sales. In 2016, Victoria’s Secret had 1,177 stores across North America and Canada and 400 more in 70 countries around the globe. Without a doubt, Victoria’s Secret is one of the world’s most influential brands. In fact, the lingerie empire is the only retail brand that has its own fashion show aired in a major TV network. For many models, becoming Victoria’s Secret Angel is the ultimate dream.

While still a billion-dollar business, L Brand – the owner of Victoria’s Secret, had to revitalize the lingerie brand. The company has also taken pivotal steps to craft a more responsive social impact strategy. Reports about the cancellation of the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show had been surfacing.  This report occurs amidst criticisms about the show’s objectification of women. Most recently, the brand signed up Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio as Victoria’s Secret’s first transgender model.

Social Impact Strategy: Intentional is Beneficial

Businesses should be intentional in creating a positive societal impact. With a tremendous potential to transform the societies where they thrive, a business must generate an effect that benefits the community. Ideally, a company should be able to strike a balance between profitability and the advancement of social and environmental causes. In truth, crafting a robust social impact strategy is difficult. However, when businesses integrate positive societal impact within the value creation process, the gains go beyond profits. With social impact strategy, companies can create opportunities to innovate; innovations that can lead to society’s transformation. Consequently, by creating positive societal impact, the consumers’ trust and loyalty  to the brand is reinforced. Thus, a purposeful corporate social responsibility program brings numerous benefits that extend well beyond revenue.

social impact strategy, john elkington quoted
Social Impact Strategy basically tells entrepreneurs that if they’re still running their businesses for revenue and revenue alone, then they have been left way behind.

How Innovations Can Foster Social Change and Sustain Growth?

Positive societal impact is achievable with the collaboration of different sectors of society. With help from non-profit organizations, government agencies, and the private sector, sustainable development goals can be achieved. Without the help of the private businesses sector, solving society’s most pressing problems can be very challenging.

To facilitate the collaboration between the government and private sector, the UN has outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals, where businesses can take active roles. Goals such as eradicating hunger, reducing inequality, and fighting climate change can be integrated within the company’s social impact strategy. For instance, Amcor’s pledge to switch recyclable or reusable packaging by the year 2025 is helping combat climate change. Undeniably, innovative companies have unlimited growth prospects. With a strong social impact strategy, opportunities to find solutions and innovations are created while building new growth areas for the business.

positive societal impact, alaa murabit quoted
Positive Societal Impact is happening, and UN has stepped in.

Building Customer Trust and Loyalty through Social Impact Strategy

Today’s consumers believe that they have the power to make a difference by making ethical choices. Through personal actions such as donating, recycling, and buying from purposeful brands, consumers are helping make a difference. Businesses who failed to take brand activism seriously have, undoubtedly, learned their lesson the hard way.

Without exception – even established brands had to rethink and evaluate the relevance of their existing social impact strategy. Luxury brand Gucci has been earning lots of millennial love by supporting disruptive innovations and change-making startups to help reduce fashion’s environmental impact. With progressive moves toward sustainability and efforts for business transparency, Gucci is 2019’s most sustainable publicly-traded fashion corporation and Global 100’s second most sustainable corporation. Noticeably, startup brands such as People Tree, Reformation, and Cuyana are gaining following for their positive societal impact.

The Sustainability of Looking after People and the Planet

Truly sustainable businesses invest on the triple bottom line – profit, people, and the planet. Focusing on profits alone may bring in revenue. But this also means losing sight of the bigger picture. And the repercussions are even more costly.  Failure to do good can tarnish a brand’s reputation, diminish the consumer’s trust, and loss of profit. In worst cases, legal battles and regulatory issues can ensue, which seriously impinges business growth. Thus, businesses need to view social impact strategy as a critical component for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Victoria’s Secret is standing at the fork of a road – one road leads to continue to peddle sexy; the other leads to supporting women empowerment and inclusivity. The future of the company rests on this choice.

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