Social responsibility is a rising priority for consumers. According to Certus Insights, 70% of consumers stated that they wouldn’t mind paying extra for their products if they knew that the brand they’re purchasing supports a social cause. This pushes companies to not only run the occasional charity campaign, but to adopt these causes and build them into their business framework.
This trend is particularly popular among young millennials, the biggest consumer segment, as well as with conscious CEOs who are now measuring social impact as a big indicator of their success.
To have a successful social purpose within the company, leaders need to identify, prioritize and implement the right strategies to get there, whether it’s championing eco-friendly packaging or ensuring fair pay and good conditions at all nodes of the production chain.
Let’s dive into the top ways that businesses can become more socially and environmentally responsible.
Benefit Your Community
Communities benefit from the social, economic, and environmental impact businesses provide. To create an impact, you must understand your community’s needs and turn them into opportunities.
One way to do this is by identifying small organizations, with a mission at their core, that lack the appropriate funding, especially now when dealing with the pandemic’s aftermath. By donating some or all of your profits to help support these causes, you can give back in a meaningful way, and your customers see you’re interested in more than just your own gain. By getting involved with local missions and helping fund them, you make your customers and your business part of the change.
Some companies even go beyond supporting a cause, creating a financially self-sustainable business model revolving around said cause. These companies are known as social businesses. Unlike a charity or fundraiser, social enterprises aim to be financially self-sustainable, serving the disadvantaged population as their primary customer base and then reinvesting the profits back, to help generate a sustainable social impact.
A great example of this model is what Professor Muhammad Yunus has created with his Yunus Funds and Yunus Corporate Innovation, generating employment opportunities and long-term sustainable social businesses with donations that are invested in these projects.
Have you ever purchased something online and upon arrival, found the packaging to be ridiculously wasteful? The amount of carton and plastic can be overwhelming, to the point where it often takes more time to open and trash the package than use the product.
When producing goods, it’s important to take a critical look at the carbon footprint of all its elements. Conscious consumers won’t buy from companies whose products are made from materials that are potentially hazardous for the environment. Going green has become a trend in recent years and many shoppers are filtering their potential purchases through the environmental impact the company may have, on the look-out for biodegradable and recycled materials or locally produced products. Make this decision easier for your customers by adding a seal that certifies you’re delivering an eco-friendly product.
Methods such as an LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) help assess a product’s environmental impact and how this may affect our natural resources, our environment, and our own health. This assessment involves every step in the process, from handling raw materials, manufacturing, logistics, use, and final disposal – giving you a greater understanding of your product’s actual footprint. Another way to calculate this impact is through an Eco-Score, which accurately estimates the above mentioned criteria similar to LCA, but even goes above and beyond to let you know how your product contributes to the circular economy (through renewable and recyclable packaging material) and potential endangered species your processes may threaten. This score gives companies the amount of data needed to make decisions about how they can contribute to the environment.
A great example of a solution to minimize your carbon footprint is innovating your packaging or using loyalty programs to incentivize customers to return the packaging in exchange for points or future discounts. These efforts result in customers incorporating recycling into their daily life and lead to a positive environmental impact.
Have High Standards in Your Supply Chain
Ignorance is bliss, but it can harm your business if you’re not aware of your manufacturing process, for example. Your company may be unconsciously promoting negative practices and this may have a huge impact on your sales and business opportunities, since stakeholders and consumers are less likely to support a company that leaves a negative social or environmental impact. There is higher consciousness and sensibility regarding social and environmental issues among consumers nowadays, so knowing exactly where your product comes from is crucial to keep your business socially responsible.
Socially responsible companies need to make sure their supply chain standards are high enough to stay competitive in the market, by incorporating CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to their strategies. This also includes working with partners who pay fair wages and provide proper working conditions.
Consumers are more aware of social rights and want to know where their products are coming from but when companies start to outsource their processes to developing countries, for example, it makes this transparency difficult. Many workers overseas don’t always get the wages they need and are sometimes driven by this necessity to overwork to make ends meet. This is where labor standards tend to slip and many big corporations don’t provide the appropriate working conditions for their employees to have fair working hours and fair pay.
It’s essential for businesses to pay a fair wage to their retailers and buyers. When businesses are transparent about their supplier and producer partnerships, customers see them more favorably and they build a stronger corporate image, ultimately resulting in increased buyer loyalty.
Deal With Your Waste
If you can’t track it, you can’t improve it. Better waste management starts with an assessment of the amounts and types of waste generated within your business. As you implement different strategies, you can track the difference in the amount of waste disposed of.
Adopting eco-friendly practices in your product manufacturing process and packaging is one way to deal with your waste. Incentivizing your consumer to recycle in their day-to-day life also creates a long-term and sustainable impact. But what if your waste can be avoided or reduced by supporting local communities?
Many restaurants donate unspoiled, healthy food to authorized food banks and food rescue organizations – saving resources that can potentially go to waste. Other large companies collect back the recyclable material from their used products and re-invest them into their communities. Nike collects used shoes from its customers worldwide and uses the different materials to help create sports-oriented surfaces, through their program, Nike Grind. The company is also creating a new line of shoes made mainly from recycled material, reducing their general waste.
Build Skills With Your Community
Empowering local communities not only builds and strengthens trust and loyalty with your brand but also helps create employment opportunities, giving your industry and your community a greater reach.
Skill-building programs can be as simple as product repair or general IT support and training, where you are reinvesting in your community by passing on valuable knowledge and creating possible employment opportunities. Ultimately, the idea behind them is that you invest your company’s expertise and knowledge into those who might not otherwise have access, helping craft the pioneers of tomorrow. By targeting underprivileged groups, you help balance the playing field when it comes to training and education.
The assumption that social responsibility is exclusive to big brands is a common misconception. Even small steps, from using energy-efficient products at your store to incorporating social responsibility into your employee training and onboarding, can help create a positive impact.
Understanding how your company fits into your industry’s social-driven purpose is vital to ensure a successful social strategy that will be sustainable in the long run. Allowing your customers to know about and be part of these positive changes helps increase the benefits of your social impact.
Murali K Nethi is an entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Hana Florist POS and SnapBlooms.com. With his background in computer science and 24+ years of delivering successful outcomes within enterprise IT programs, Murali has dabbled in several technology initiatives earlier to Hana POS, before finding passion and success with floral industry.