Corporate responsibility is a trend that’s likely here to stay. As millennials and Generation Z gain significant buying power, they aren’t letting go of their need to support companies that are supporting society.

“My generation the millennials understands that a company should be more than just making a product,” said Alicia Sexton, senior sales manager, Wyandot Snacks, Marion, Ohio. “It’s more impactful to purchase from a company that has a purpose and is doing something good and going beyond the product. From a consumer perspective, it’s important that a brand stands for something.”

The 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study showed that 87% of consumers across all ages said they would purchase a product because a company supported an issue they support. But even more telling was that more than 75% would not purchase a product if they discovered the company endorsed an issue that went against their beliefs. Ms. Sexton touched on that, too.

“People understand now that a company’s messaging could be green-washing: They are saying they are doing good, but they aren’t,” she explained.

It’s clear that corporate social responsibility is important to consumers these days, and to win the sale, companies have to prove they are putting their money where their messaging is. However, corporate social responsibility encompasses a lot. That same study found that consumers have priorities in what they think businesses should be doing: being a good employer, operating in a way that protects the environment and benefits society, creating products and services that ensure well-being, investing in the local and global community, and standing up for social justice issues.

[Related reading: More baking, snack companies prioritize social programs]

Many baking companies have been on the social responsibility train for a while, long before it became a bandwagon. For many, it started as a family value that became a natural part of the business. When asked where Ridgefield, NJ-based Toufayan Bakeries’ giving spirit originated, Karen Toufayan, vice president of sales and marketing, answered with two words.

“My dad,” she said. “Since we were kids, he’s always given back to the community.”

Whether it was opening a youth center in Armenia, the Toufayan family’s country of origin, or donating bread to national disaster relief, giving back has always been a part of Toufayan Bakeries.

“For example, when Hurricane Sandy happened, he’s the one who came to my office and said, ‘Somehow, we’ve got to get bread to the people on the shore,’ ” Ms. Toufayan said. “He managed to get us down there with trucks to distribute whatever bread we could bake fast enough.”

Wyandot Snacks perpetuates the community support started by the founding family, the Browns.

“It really started with the Brown family,” said Rob Sarlls, president and chief executive officer of Wyandot. “The family has always been very focused on providing value to the local Marion community, and we’re continuing that tradition.”

“From a consumer perspective, it’s important that a brand stands for something.”

Alicia Sexton, Wyandot Snacks

While much of the charitable giving had been previously done by the family, Wyandot has taken on that responsibility, contributing to local causes. Most recently, the company became a certified B Corp, focusing its efforts on a United Nations sustainable initiative on ending hunger, funneling at least half its charitable dollars into that cause.

“We feel an obligation to take care of and provide value to all stakeholders, and that’s everyone from our hourly employees, teammates, the Marion community in which we operate, our customers, the end consumers and really the broader community and environment in which we all find ourselves in each and every day,” Mr. Sarlls said. “Doing well by doing good is something Wyandot always had in our DNA. By becoming a B Corp, we’ve validated and certified what we’ve been doing all along.”

[Related listening: Wyandot incentivizes employees during COVID-19]

While social responsibility may often start as a company legacy, it can also position a business well in the eyes of consumers and employees. People seek employment at companies focused on providing a satisfying work environment.

“There’s retention and attraction,” Mr. Sarlls explained. “We are trying to be a purpose-driven company that attracts people who share our values and get excited to come to work every day.”

This mindset also attracts customers, especially being the first snack manufacturer and one of the few co-manufacturers to gain B Corp status.

“Typically, companies that are B Corps are service companies, non-profits or branded,” Mr. Sarlls said. “So we’re ahead of where corporate America needs to go as far as putting their money where their mouth is. This means a lot to our customers, to see that we take the extra step, and it helps tremendously with prospects."

This article is an excerpt from the July 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on social responsibility, click here.