Is Social Responsibility the Path to Growth?

The economy may not be at its strongest, but there are still customers out there willing to spend money. The key to connecting with them is knowing what they’re looking for, and that doesn’t mean simply targeting your product or services to the right demographic. What many customers are looking for now is something more than quality and value, although those things are important. They are looking for a business whose ideals align with their own, and that they see as socially responsible. You can grow your small business by identifying what your company stands for beyond its bottom line and thinking about what you’re offering your customers besides products and services. If you can find a way to connect with them through shared values, then you’re likely to find yourself with a loyal following. 

Should You Make Social Responsibility Part of Your Brand’s Identity?

illustration of hands in the color black positioned around the earth
Companies that do business with other companies can help make a difference in the world and grow their business.

Being socially responsible might already be important to you in your daily life, but what about your business? Consider the following: in a recent study, more than half of consumers said that if price and quality were equal, a brand’s social purpose would be the most important factor when they’re purchasing something. In another survey, 63% of those surveyed agreed with this statement: “By choosing to do business with companies that are more socially responsible, I can make a difference in this world.”

Customers are sending a clear message to businesses, and employees might be just as eager to see that your business is socially responsible. Socially conscious companies often create positive work environments and have dynamic ideologies that attract top talent. If you’re looking to recruit the best, know that many top hires are looking for companies that they think are giving back to their communities

Can small businesses grow through being more socially conscious? Yes! Consider brands like Tom’s of Maine or Burt’s Bees. Both started off small, with clear social missions, and both have ended up becoming so successful that they were acquired for millions of dollars by multinational corporations. So by following your conscience, you’ll be sticking to your own values, as well as pleasing customers and employees, and growing your business. What’s not to like? 

Steps to Take

You may be wondering how, as a small business owner, you can go about incorporating social responsibility into the workings of your company. It’s all well and good for behemoths like Starbucks with nearly $17 billion behind them to do things like pay for health insurance and give back to developing countries, but what about your small business? 

You don’t have to be running a giant corporation to make social consciousness part of your brand’s identity. In fact, according to Susan Salgado, a co-founder and co-chair of the New York City chapter of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism, it might actually be easier for small businesses to be socially responsible. “Small companies are more nimble, so it’s easy to stay more closely attached to your purpose and values,” Salgado said.

It’s something you want to do, it’s something you can do, even as a small business owner…the question is how to incorporate your sense of social consciousness into your business. We’ve identified the steps you should take to help you make social responsibility part of your brand’s identity. 

1. Establish Your Social Mission different words surrounding the headline "helping volunteer"

Step number one? Know what your social mission is! You probably already have a mission statement for your business; a social mission statement will emphasize how your company will actively seek to help your community. Avoid being too vague here – you should be able to articulate what your mission is, and be able identify how you can accomplish it. If you can’t identify a specific mission, you won’t be able to translate your ideas to your employees, or give customers a reason to choose you over competitors. 

2. Set Goals, But Be Realistic

Having a specific mission statement is one thing, but you also need to think about what exactly you are going to do and how you can realistically set about doing it. First, consider what resources you have that you can allocate to doing good in your community. Then create a list of goals to try and reach in the next 6 months or so that won’t disrupt your day-to-day operations too much. 

When it comes to your goals, follow the SMART method and make sure that they are realistic, measurable, and attainable. Think about the following:

  • What needs are there in your community that you could help address?
  • How much money – and time – can you realistically set aside to do good in your community?
  • Is there a way to help educate or create awareness of an issue in your community?

3. Get Employees In On It

As we have already said, you should be able to clearly articulate your social mission; this includes being able to educate your employees on exactly what you’re trying to do. Get them on board and keep them informed every step of the way so they can get involved, and they can pass your vision on to customers. 

You should also be clear what their role in your business’ social mission is. While it’s ok for some employees to remain on the sidelines and simply be advocates for your brand’s social consciousness, you might want to create a team of other employees who can help you figure out ways to positively impact your community. 

4. Find Other Ways to Give Back

a man and woman with white shirts that say volunteer on them with a wodden box on a table that has a white sign with donation on it
You can donate, volunteer, and encourage your employees to help.

Having your brand attached to certain ideals via your social mission statement and putting resources towards your socially responsible goals are great first steps. So what are some other concrete ways to become a more visibly socially responsible business? Consider donating money or resources to local charities. If your small business has limited money to put aside for philanthropy, it would be just as beneficial to charities – and your business – for you to organize small fundraisers or drives, or set up donation boxes.

If money is an issue, you can also consider volunteering your time, and encouraging employees to do the same. You can organize team volunteer days, during which you and your employees spend a day working for a charitable organization. Consider also finding ways to reward employees who volunteer their time, perhaps by offering paid days off to spend their time engaged in philanthropic work.

5. Look at Your Own Labor Practices

There are so many ways to become known for your socially responsible activities, but remember that social consciousness starts within your business. Being an ethical employer is so important not only for your employees’ quality of life and job satisfaction, but also for your brand identity and growth potential. Treat your employees with respect, value their work, compensate them fairly, create a safe and healthy work environment, and allow them opportunities for growth in your company. Word will spread that your business lives up to your ideals.

6. Think About Sustainability the recycle symbol with green and blue arrows

Finally, being a valuable member of your community includes being environmentally conscious. You can create a more sustainable workplace by:

  • Going paperless whenever possible
  • Participating in recycling programs
  • Using eco-friendly lighting, supplies, and packing material
  • Encouraging carpooling
  • Switching to renewable energy sources

Remember, being a socially responsible business does not mean making a one-time donation or pulling marketing stunts. It’s a way of life, and it takes commitment. But if you’re willing to go the extra mile and stick to your ideals, you can make a profit and make a difference. Pay attention to both sides of the equation and you’re sure to grow. 

Summer Sustainability: How to help the planet, your health, and your wallet.

With the arrival of summer, temperatures are beginning to rise –  and so is energy consumption. With concerns over climate change continuing to grow, now is a great time to focus on environmental conservation. You can start conserving natural resources at home by practicing responsible, sustainable energy consumption –  and you’ll save some money on energy costs too! group of people with signs to act now against climate change

The Truth About Climate Change

Many of us have been around long enough to remember “global warming,” but that term simply did not accurately reflect the reality of what is happening to our environment.  What we now call climate change refers not only to changes in temperature, but also changes to things like rainfall and wind patterns, crop and flower blooming seasons, and more. 

Experts agree that climate change is being caused by humans and the ways that we have been increasing levels of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, in the atmosphere. The two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are the fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas that we use for electricity, heat, and transportation, and deforestation methods used to clear land for urbanization or farming. 

arctic ice melting into the ocean.
Arctic ice sheets melting is a result of climate change.

The Threat

Experts say that climate change is the #1 threat to humans globally. When the weather is out of whack, the routines and the natural cycles of the planet are disrupted, with catastrophic effects. And we have already begun to see the effects of climates changing: we have seen arctic ice sheets melting, leading to rising ocean levels, which in turn causes disastrous flooding. 

Many climate scientists and meteorologists use Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as an example of the types of climate-related emergencies we can expect to see in the future. 15 years later, New Orleans neighborhoods are still trying to recover from the tragedy. Just one hurricane can wreak havoc and lead to extreme homelessness, poverty, water contamination, and strain on local resources.

Climate change also exacerbates medical risks and the spread of infectious disease. The World Health Organization estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year by the year 2030 – just 10 years from now. With temperatures and rainfall rising, insect-borne diseases like dengue fever, zika, and lymes disease will flourish. Hotter temperatures will place people at a greater risk for medical emergencies related to heat stroke and  cardiovascular and kidney disease. Air quality will decrease because of pollution, higher mold levels due to warmer and wetter seasons, and higher pollen levels due to longer pollinating seasons. All of this will put people at a risk for respiratory health issues, particularly the 300 million people who suffer from asthma globally.

What You Can Do 

These threats are real, and the time for action is now. There are some changes you can make in your own home that can help slow the rate of climate change. These suggestions involve some changes to your lifestyle, but they will help the planet and save you money or improve your health. 

  • Reduce your air conditioner usage this summer. Instead, rely on overhead or portable fans, or invest in insulating window curtains to help your house stay cooler for longer.
  • Hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer to save energy.

    multiple laundry being hung outside.
    Hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer to save energy.
  • Unplug your phone and laptop charger when not in use, and consider switching to power strips for other appliances so you can turn them all off at night. The bonus is that these three steps will also cut down on your energy bills. 
  • Walk or bike instead of driving. This is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, and reduces the use of fossil fuels. 
  • Eat in-season, locally grown fruits and veggies. The environmental cost of growing and farming out-of-season produce is very high, and supporting local farms reduces transportation emissions. Or, start your own garden! 
  • Reduce red meat consumption. The meat farming industry is a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of perpetuating the farmed meat cycle, look for local, sustainable farms and butchers for high quality, low carbon footprint meats. 
  • Reduce and reuse as much as possible! Fix your appliances, shop secondhand, and make small switches, like using rags made out of old t-shirts instead of paper towels or recycling candle wax. Factories create a lot of carbon dioxide when making new products – plus, think of all the money you’ll save by limiting your online shopping!

Unfortunately, because climate change is a multifaceted issue, there’s no one solution for slowing down its effects. But by participating in efforts to save our planet, you are modeling the importance of environmental sustainability to your family, friends, and community. This environmental stewardship is critical as we head towards the breaking point for our planet’s future. All of these changes, though small, are a step forward on the path to a healthy, thriving planet for years to come.

Going Green: Small Businesses can Support Environmental Sustainability

Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing our world today. While some celebrities have made themselves the faces of the climate change movement, there are many unsung heroes working everyday to make a difference. As a business owner, you too can take actions to help slow the damage being done to our environment. With some easy, low-cost changes, your business can play an active role in supporting environmental efforts for a safer and greener future. 

Move Online

caucasian hands on a keyboard in front of a computer screen.
Offer your services online.
  • Offer your services online

Consider switching to online invoicing and payments to limit your businesses’ reliance on receipts and trips to the bank for deposits. There are a variety of options for these programs. Many of them will save money on supplies and will allow to you to receive payments faster. 

In the age of the internet, there are endless ways to use our permanent “online” status to market your business. Try exploring all of the ways social media can help build your brand, or switch to email campaigns rather than flyers or postcards. These incredibly effective marketing methods will help you save precious resources.

Changes Around the Office

  • Make your office environmentally friendly

If you have a brick-and-mortar location, try switching to compact flourescent lightbulbs, choosing laptops over desktop computers when possible, utilizing energy-saver settings on computers, and offering reusable cups for coffee and water. 

  • Use Green Products

In this day and age, almost all companies have a sustainability plan. Ask your vendors about their environmental efforts! For example, if your business requires shipping, look into companies that use energy efficient vehicles. On your end, you can switch to mailers made out of recycled materials and paper stuffing instead of bubble wrap. 

light blue bag with re-use on it

  • Recycle and reuse

Start a recycling initiative in your office. Aim to have
more recycling than trash. Make sure you follow your community’s recycling guidelines for things like electronics, glass, and ink cartridges. 

Steps Toward Sustainability

Your business may be thriving, but our planet is struggling. While there is no single solution to the imminent threat of climate change, reducing your carbon footprint can help slow the impact. By participating in efforts to save our planet, you demonstrate your leadership, and a commitment to helping our planet thrive. All of these changes, though small, are a step forward on the path to a greener, more sustainable future.