Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) used to be as straightforward as businesses giving money to a cause and pocketing some positive PR in the process. Today, companies and consumers are more savvy, and expectations are high.

In a recent study conducted by Cone Communications, 90% of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes. Put another way:

More than 278 million people in the U.S. want to know what a company is doing to benefit a cause. <-- Tweet This

While CSR may have set companies apart in the past, a moral compass is now standard practice, and some companies are taking a more long-term, strategic approach. In a recent interview with Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company), Koch explained his desire to deepen his corporate giving by offering true value creation. Instead of donating money to nonprofits, his model makes small business loans to small food, beverage, and hospitality businesses in South Boston, and combines them with pro bono coaching and mentoring.

The next time you need a bottle of salad dressing or a box of chocolate, consider making your purchase from one of these companies that gives back. It's a simple way to be philanthropic with everyday purchases you might make anyway.

1. Newman's Own

The late Paul Newman might be best known for his acting roles, but he was a committed philanthropist. Newman and his business partner expected their salad dressings to be a small boutique operation, and anticipated low sales and quarterly losses. But in 30 years, Newman's Own has earned over $330 million, and every dime has been given to charity. Makes your salad taste even better, doesn't it?

2. Brown Bag Designs

Every year, Brown Bag Designs in New Hampshire donates the proceeds from one of its cookie molds to a different charity; this year it’s Heifer International, which helps needy families gain steady sources of food and income.

3. Seattle Chocolate Company

Profits from Seattle Chocolate Company’s Survivor Chick Chocolate bar in raspberry fund women’s-cancer research.

4. Grains of Wisdom

Every time a visitor to the FreeRice.com website answers a trivia question correctly, sponsors like Unilever and Country Crock donate 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Programme (they’re up to 40 billion grains and counting).

5. Samuel Adams

Breaking away from traditional philanthropy, founder Jim Koch worked with a strategic consulting firm and launched Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream in 2008. His goal is to support local businesses instead of nonprofits, bringing jobs and long-term economic and social value to South Boston. Cheers to that.

Know of a great food company that gives back? Let me know in the comments!

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