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Starting a socially responsible business empowers you to make a positive impact on both your community and the world, aligning your entrepreneurial pursuits with a purpose beyond profit.
In the past, companies could stay out of political, social and environmental issues. However, today’s consumers expect brands to respond to current events and take a stand against injustice. They want to see their spending dollars contribute to the good of society, not unsustainable business practices and greenwashing tactics.
Consumers are even willing to pay 7%-11% more for products from socially responsible companies. It’s no secret there are profits to be made for businesses that commit to and achieve corporate social responsibility. Why not boost your bottom line and set yourself apart from the competition by creating an ethical business? You don’t need a ton of money to make a difference. You just need a plan.
Here are a few simple ways to make a socially responsible business from the start and increase your chance of achieving long-term success.
1. Establish Your Mission
Every successful company has a mission, and a great way to prioritize social responsibility is to make it an integral part of that outlook. Weave your core values into the very fabric of your business. Write them on the walls, ponder them often and be a company that actually sticks to them, even when times get tough.
Hold your business accountable by including these values in your business plan and mission statement. As your company grows and becomes more profitable, your employees and customers will hold you to them.
2. Share Your Efforts
Only 9% of consumers take companies at their word when they say they’re socially responsible. When you consider all the greenwashing and misleading marketing schemes, shoppers’ mistrust comes as no surprise. Why not give them a reason to trust businesses by sharing evidence of the change your business is making?
For instance, Ford recently invested $11 billion in electric vehicles and made sure the public knew it. By advertising its sustainability efforts, the company won the attention of car lovers and the eco-conscious. Making CSR-related progress publicly available helps everyone understand where you came from and where you’re going so they can determine whether you’re worth their voting dollars.
3. Make Charitable Donations
Once you’ve established and shared your mission statement, put your money where your mouth is by connecting social programs with actual revenue. Build charity into your business by making donations.
Give a portion of the profits to an organization that aids the local community or helps solve a societal issue like littering or educational inequity. Alternatively, you can implement buy-one, give-one programs that help customers get in on the action. For instance, TOMS gives away free shoes for every pair sold. Use an app like Mint to manage your finances and create a budget that prioritizes philanthropy and social responsibility.
4. Involve Everyone
If you’ve yet to hire employees, you probably don’t have social good or volunteer programs in place. It’s important to think about and plan for these opportunities now so they’re ready to implement when you do assemble a team.
Plan for employees to join your CSR efforts from day one by providing various volunteer opportunities for them to choose from. Plan for companywide community service days or offer dedicated paid time off for people who want to volunteer during work hours. Incorporate more incentives into your employee benefits package as you add more people to your team.
5. Hire Socially Responsible People
Nearly 64% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to apply for jobs. Socially responsible businesses are bound to attract applicants who share the same values, which is good news for your future success as a company.
However, it can be difficult to find and hire socially responsible people when you’re just starting out. One possible solution is to connect with organizations in your community that might know interested applicants. Leave job postings in stores, coffee shops, and other places like-minded people might gather.
6. Become a B Corporation
If you want to make a firm commitment to social responsibility, consider establishing your business as a benefit corporation — or B corporation. B-corps are for-profits that operate for the good of the planet. Their operating agreements include intentions to serve the interest of the Earth and everyone who calls it home.
There are a few perks to becoming a B-corp. First and foremost, you’ll receive certification, so your employees and customers know you’re ethical. They don’t have to take your word for it because the proof is in the pudding. You’ll also meet other like-minded businesses during and after the certification process, many of which could become partners in your journey to achieving your CSR goals. Nearly half of all British B-corps have already benefited from forming such partnerships.
Socially Responsible Business Starts With You
Efforts to make a socially responsible business tend to be most successful when change starts at the top. In other words, your business’s destiny lies on your shoulders. Success begins and ends with you, so it’s important to cultivate socially responsible habits on an individual level first. Once your core values revolve around people, not profits, you can lead your business in a more ethical and sustainable direction.