Two Campbell employees cook warm meals for a food shelter during the annual Make A Difference Week. 

A company’s narrative is more than just how it was founded; it includes how the business is socially responsible and how it gives back to the world. Food manufacturers large and small are picking charities and social initiatives that resound with consumers not only because of the positive social effect but also because of its effect on the bottom line.

According to a 2016 report by Mintel, “Perceptions of Companies that Support Charities/Non-profits,” 37% of adults said they would be more likely to purchase products from companies that donate to charities. The study also showed 43% of consumers thought businesses can make a positive impact on people’s lives and benefit the local community when they give back. By creating a connection to local, national or international charitable organizations, consumers feel they are making a difference when they purchase a product.

The Campbell Soup Co., which owns Pepperidge Farm, is a category giant that stands out for making corporate social responsibility (C.S.R.) critical to its brand’s value. For example, Campbell’s Healthy Communities program began in its world headquarters of Camden, N.J., a town of 77,000 residents, with the goal to address issues of food security, nutrition education and health. This $10 million, 10-year initiative is directed toward measurably improving the health of young people. During the past five years, the effort has expanded from Camden to Pepperidge Farm’s headquarters in Norwalk, Conn.; two manufacturing facilities in Napoleon, Ohio, and Everett, Wash.; as well as Detroit.

“C.S.R. is a core part of our DNA and has been threaded through much of our work, from farm to spoon,” said Megan Maltenfort, Campbell Soup’s senior manager, C.S.R.

The company encourages year-round volunteerism through its Dollars for Doers program. It tracked more than 12,000 U.S. volunteer hours in fiscal year 2016. For every 25 hours an employee volunteered, the partner nonprofit received a $500 grant. In 2016, 93 Dollars for Doers grants were awarded totaling $159,500.

Campbell Soup also hosts an annual week of service — Make A Difference Week — when employees come together to help local communities. Last year, more than 3,700 workers from 17 U.S. locations participated in 110 projects focused on building healthy communities and driving food access. 
Campbell Soup aligns its C.S.R. programs with its culture. While the company promotes better-for-you ingredients in its food, it also works with local communities to feed the hungry and enhance access to healthy foods. Ms. Maltenfort said Campbell Soup defines C.S.R. and sustainability as advancing global nutrition and wellness, helping build a more sustainable environment and honoring Campbell Soup’s role in society as a food producer.

“We live this ideal through various programs that touch our communities,” Ms. Maltenfort said. “Our employees volunteer in various ways across communities where we operate, and our Healthy Communities program works to address food security and nutrition.”

At Emeryville, Calif.-based Clif Bar & Company, founders built the business around what they call Five Aspirations: sustaining business, brands, people, community and the planet. Thao Pham, vice-president of community and executive director of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, said the company established its goals before consumers could easily research on-line and engage through social media to better understand the values of the brands they choose. Because of that, Clif can be proactive more often than reactive.

“It’s not enough to avoid bad behavior,” she said. “A company has to engage in positive social and environmental impact. The speed and ease through which consumers can get this information today has certainly upped the game.”

Volunteerism is not only encouraged but also expected at Clif. Recent projects include an effort in Twin Falls to build and maintain the city’s regional recreational trails. At its Indianapolis bakery, employees host an annual pack-a-thon in which they put together meals for underserved members of the community. This year, they assembled more than 1 million meals during the round-the-clock, one-day event.

“We encourage our employees to volunteer in the community on company time,” Ms. Pham said. Clif will have committed to 14,560 hours (equivalent to seven full-time employees) of volunteerism by the end of 2017. By the end of this year, employees will have donated more than 110,000 hours to community service since the program began.

These are just some of the examples of these companies giving back and engaging with their local communities. A portfolio of C.S.R. initiatives not only does good for the broader community, but it improves the business’ bottom line.