Seven Top Tips Why You Need a Socially Responsible Business

Does good Corporate Citizenship matter? Industry pundits will say it is no longer just a moral imperative – it is now a smart business “imperitive”. Investors, consumers, workers and communities are all demanding that rare breed: capitalism with a human face and spirit. Few truly succeed though. For one thing, many companies have their efforts criticized for just not being genuine. Think about how many companies associate themselves with charities simply to improve their image, or win business, people are not easily fooled and will always see through that.

Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown, founder of Uncommon Union writes in Entrepeneur:

“Early on in my path as an entrepreneur I discovered a surprise: It wasn’t enough to focus only on my own happiness. When I figured out that success was a group enterprise — that, as a social creature, I could not be truly happy without caring about other people’s freedom — I discovered social enterprise. Then I made a second surprising discovery: Starting a social enterprise is not about making sacrifices or doing something extra”.

 

Based in Sofia, Bulgaria, 60K is a 600-seat contact centre, its COO, Ivan Ivanov paints a picture of its efforts to be socially responsible. Last year, visitors to 60K’s offices in Sofia, Bulgaria, were greeted not by the formal, blandness they might have expected from a typical process outsourcer, but by a colourful Christmas bazaar selling cards and decorations, bags, books, DVDs, calendars, ect.

The four-day bazaar aimed to raise funds for several local charities: the Dechitsa Foundation which runs a local orphanage, the Animal Rescue Sofia Foundation which is raising funds to buy a new home for stray dogs, a foundation which supports prematurely born children in Bulgaria, a daycare centre for people with mental disorders, and the local House for Hearing-Impaired Children. In total the firms’s employees donated 3583.38 leva (£1501.64). You might wonder why a contact center of all things, would bother with charity. Ivanov lists seven reasons why his company – and indeed every business regardless of size, location or sector – ought to become more socially responsible.

1. Keep regulators at bay

For many organisations the initial impetus towards social responsibility is the desire to keep regulators at bay. In many ways it is a sensible corporate strategy. It is after all far better to choose the timing, scale and nature of your interventions than to have them imposed upon you. Equally, this plays an important social role. The charity donations, sports funding and public buildings provided by corporates are by and large gratefully received by the people who benefit from them. However, there are many other reasons for a company to want to become more socially responsible.

2. Motivate employees

A 2010 Hewitt & Associates study, examined 230 workplaces and found that the more a company actively pursues worthy environmental and social efforts, the more engaged its employees are.

3. Attract the top talent

According to PTC 88% of millennials – the new generation entering the workforce – , choose employers based on strong social responsibility values, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s values no longer met their expectations. Firms need to do all they can to attract the youngest and the best.

4. Innovate to succeed

By taking a break from routines, meeting new people and engaging in a fresh experience. Many organisations find this can provide a real spur to innovation. It helps them think of fresh ways of working, or new markets for products, or even entirely new product lines. Think of how automotive manufacturers have unearthed the demand for electric and hybrid cars, or how clothing manufacturers are involving consumers in product design – try new activities with new people and the results can be surprising, and profitable.

5. Tap into the power of social media

My personal favorite. The speed, reach and power of social media networks means that it takes just one person to notice the good work a company does and to be sufficiently impressed to post a link, tweet a photo, or update a blog, and within hours the story can have reached millions of people right across the globe. All organisations are digital entities. Act accordingly. You have been warned.

6. Give consumers what they want

There is now an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that consumers are interested in more than just whether or not you have the best products at the lowest prices. To give just one example of these statistics, it was revealed that 31% of global consumers believe businesses should change the way they operate to align with social and environment needs and 90% of them want companies to go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly and address issues. For example,Dharma Merchant Services was built on the commitment of bringing transparency to the credit card processing business and now they serve thousands of small businesses in retail and service industries. The implication is clear: behaving ethical can help a business boost sales and profits.

7. It is morally the right thing to do

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, social responsibility is simply the right thing to do. We all work hard to earn money, but we also know we are an integral part of our local community and so it is only right that we give back to it what we can. Does your employer or business do that?

I would add to the above: Involve your customers and try to build a community around your efforts. Also consider hooking up  with selected organizations that can magnify and amplify your impact.

Image credit via Acton Institute Power Blog

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