You don’t have to be a non profit to make a social impact. More and more, corporations large and small are practicing business social responsibility. Approaches to social responsibility go by many names: corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, the double bottom line, the triple bottom line, values-led business, and the blended value proposition. The point is that no matter what you call it, you want to have a “higher” return.
Approaches to social responsibility vary. Determining which is right for your organization takes thought. Business social responsibility comes with major benefits but it has real costs. Only you can decide what’s right for your company. However, by exploring the what, why and how of other businesses, you can make an informed decision for your own business.
Leaders of values-driven organizations go beyond profits and balanced budgets to make the world a better place. Bound by shared idealism, you enjoy discussing best practices and new approaches to social responsibility. You find reassurance in knowing that you’re not in this alone, that others are taking this journey to increased business social responsibility.
It is important to have a framework to categorize and evaluate approaches to social responsibility. The framework provided in Values-driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun by Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick simplifies complex business social responsibility concepts. Non profits can also be categorized using this system.
Does your organization produce a product or service that improves the quality of life? Most non profits fall into this category whether the organization helps the homeless, provides medical care, or supports the arts and cultural institutions. For-profit models also fall into this category, including:
New Leaf Paper, which develops and distributes environmentally superior printing and office papers.
Chez Panisse, which serves organically and locally grown food that is harvested in an ecologically sound manner by people who are take care of the land for future generations.
Kurzweil Educational Systems, which develops reading technology for people with learning difficulties and for those who are blind or visually impaired.
Does your organization invest its profits in social or environment causes? Foundations fit here. So, too, do:
Domini Social Investments, which manages funds for individual and institutional investors who want to integrate social and environmental standards into their investment decisions.
ShoreBank Corporation, which is America's first community-development and environmental bank holding company.
Other businesses donate to charities, including:
Newman’s Own Newman’s Own, which manufactures premium food and donates all its profit to non profits.
Peacekeeper Cause-Metics, a cosmetics company that gives all of its after-tax distributable profits to organizations that promote women’s health advocacy or urgent human rights issues.
Does your organization operate in a socially responsible way? Approaches to social responsibility include valuing and treating employees well and fairly; sourcing ethical suppliers; minimizing harm to the environment; and being good neighbors. Three companies who personify this category are:
Clif Bar, which manufactures healthy and nutritious energy bars.
Method, which produces environmentally-friendly cleaning products that are safe for every home and every body.
Patagonia, which provides outdoor clothing, apparel and gear for climbing, hiking, surfing, running and travel.
The truth is that all small businesses, including non profits, can act in a more socially responsible way. Small steps, when taken by many, can make a major social impact. By examining the business social responsibility classification system in Values-driven Business, you can determine what matters most to you, and where and how you want to make a difference.
Employees are the heart and soul of your organization. They produce the products and services that your organization offers. If you take good care of them, employee turnover will be lower, productivity will be higher , and fraud/theft will decline. if you don’t take good care of your employees, it’s harder to recruit and hold on to good people, and morale is low.
You express appreciation and show that you value your employees by paying fair wages; offering profit-sharing and stock options, if you’re a for-profit; providing good health, retirement and maternity benefits; offering flex time; providing opportunities for advancement; and supporting, encouraging, and training your employees.
You can use your purchasing practices to serve social purposes by upholding business social responsibility standards. The most common practices involve purchasing from disadvantaged suppliers or engaging in environmentally friendly purchasing. For example, one of many fair trade organizations, Café Campesino, provides specialty coffees grown in socially and environmentally responsible ways, from democratically managed, small-scale farmer cooperatives in Mexico and Latin America.
Socially responsible businesses are finding that their clients and customers are more loyal and forgiving when something goes wrong.
Organizations can also use their methods of producing and delivering their goods to servea social purpose. Environmentally friendly production practices provide the most common example. For instance, Green Mountain Energy Company provides 500,000 customers with cleaner electricity from sources such as wind, solar, water, and cleaner-burning natural gas. Energy producers that use renewable sources not only reduce pollution and its associated problems, but they also decrease our dependency on foreign oil as well as the need for drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.