Social responsibility. Karma. Being a good corporate citizen. Call it what you will, but people are realizing that businesses need to look outside of their walls to help make the world a better place.
There was once a time when social responsibility may have been looked on with disdain. It is easy to mistakenly link it to socialism (in the political sense). But today, more and more companies are realizing that they need to be part of a global picture.
What brought about the change? Certainly there has been societal pressure to make changes, but companies are also realizing that the long term effect of a profit-only vision is a conscience-depleted workforce living in a resource-depleted world. Not a nice vision.
And because of this, customers are voting with their dollars. They are choosing to shop at companies that support social responsibility and are avoiding or even boycotting companies that use irresponsible tactics like clear-cutting or sweat shop labor.
So how can you become a socially responsible? You may not be razing the Amazon or employing children to do hard labor, but you can still create a company that is socially responsible.
Here are four key areas to get started:
- Environmentally friendly: Recycle mercilessly. Encourage car-pooling among staff.
- Ability friendly: Hire people with disabilities. Make sure your business is accessible to people in wheelchairs.
- Encouraging: Find a charity and promote it. Do more than just sponsor events, get involved and encourage your staff to get involved.
- Life balanced: Encourage your staff to enjoy their life and to maintain a work/life balance. Don’t expect them to spend huge amounts of time at their jobs.
This is just a start. It should be the baseline for all businesses. And even though you shouldn’t need the incentive to do the right thing, many federal, state, or municipal grants are available to help you bring your business up to “code” on these issues.
What are the costs? In many cases, you’ll find the costs to be minimal; particularly if you find grants to (for example) switch over your computer system so you can hire a hard-of-seeing employee.
What are the rewards? There are too many to mention, but they include…
- You’ll sleep better at night.
- Your employees will feel good about their job (that builds loyalty).
- Your customers will vote with their dollars in your favor.
- You’ll leave the world a better place.
Still not convinced? Consider The Body Shop, a retail boutique in shopping malls around the world was one of the movers and shakers in a socially responsible business. According to Hoovers, The Body Shop earned revenues of $602 million in February 2003, $711 million in February 2004, and $803 million in February 2005. Not bad for a company that wants to leave the world a better place than it found it.