“..in a world that is ever conscious of our global footprint both environmentally and socially, companies are being forced to re-evaluate their contribution to the sustainability of our communities and the planet as a whole”
A community is only as strong as the businesses that support it. In this post-COVID business world, we are recognizing that our businesses can no longer be islands of isolation, fiercely guarding our IP, operating in the cattle chutes of customer retention, competition and profit-making. While these elements are important to the strength and success of a business, corporate social responsibility and ‘giving back’ is becoming more and more essential to a strong, forward-thinking business model.
Once upon a time, a business would make a charitable donation, accept the tax write-off, and continue with their operations, focusing mainly on profits and the bottom line. Now however, in a world that is ever conscious of our global footprint both environmentally and socially, companies are being forced to re-evaluate their contribution to the sustainability of our communities and the planet as a whole. Companies are standing up non-profit foundations, supporting social enterprises, and choosing to support organizations that can yield an ROI (return of impact) that they can pass on to their employees, customers, and stakeholders.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have given us a powerful framework for collective responsibility. As businesses must now have a conscience in order to truly make a sustainable impact, and by incorporating the SDGs into their business models, companies are choosing to support non-profit causes that prioritize the SDGs, helping these businesses to improve their environmental footprint and contribute positively to the unity of our societies, thus giving their customers and stakeholders a compelling reason to choose them over competitors. But to achieve the full measure of effect from corporate social responsibility, ‘giving back’ needs to be embraced in a systemic fashion, with companies of all sizes – from the large multi-national to the microenterprise – taking measurable action.
The ‘give back’ economy will be integral to the future of business. Giving back does not merely mean contributing to charity, it means that we give back to our planet by ensuring that we have a responsible supply chain, reduce our carbon footprint, and help to contribute positively to our diverse society. It means that we recognize the role we play as business owners in our collective community economy, ensuring that we thrive, rather than decay. It is no secret that together we are stronger. But we must now consider how we can collaborate with one another to support and improve our communities.
“It is not disingenuous to promote your commitment to social good, rather, it is important to share your value with the public, as this allows customers to make an informed and responsible choice when considering your product or service”
“Together, we have the power to heal our global fractures. Together, we can reach new heights of innovation and achievement”
The most obvious form of giving back is through charitable, tax-deductive contributions. While this is an easy and valuable choice, it is essential that we clearly understand the mission, vision, strategy, and fiscal management of the charities we choose. How much of our contribution is going to administration and how much is actually going to impact? Out of the amount of time and money that a business prioritizes to impact, can the value of this impact be quantified? If it can, and a business is satisfied with measurement, they must make sure that they share this contribution and measure of impact in their annual report, on social media, and weave it into the ‘story’ of their model of operations. It is not disingenuous to promote your commitment to social good, rather, it is important to share your value with the public, as this allows customers to make an informed and responsible choice when considering your product or service.
Through the formation of a company-aligned foundation, a company can make a direct impact in line with the mission, vision, industry/sector in which they operate. Tying business operations to a vehicle for environmental and/or social impact can be a powerful mechanism for impact, easily allowing customers, partners, employees, and stakeholders to not only have a clear line of sight into the social responsibility of the company, but to actively participate in this impact. When a company has an associated foundation, they can closely manage the mission, the administration and fiscal responsibility, and they can better align the purpose of the foundation with the operations of the company.
“..a company, one of your greatest assets, aside from the quality of your employees, is your reputation. You can’t have one without the other”
Companies who make their employees, customers, and stakeholders a part of their mission of ‘giving’, realize a measurable uptick in the attitudes, performance, and happiness of their business environment, which further translates into enhanced productivity, less turnover, an environment conducive to innovative thinking and greater profitability. Encouraging and rewarding employees for volunteering in the company foundation, for other non-profits or in the community shows the employee that the company respects and understands their responsibility to be a good steward to both people and planet. Creating a workplace environment where employees are given the means to contribute to the company foundation or to a non-profit of their choice through payroll deductions, allows them to participate in a company culture based on unity, philanthropy, and accountability. This gives the company a distinctive edge over competitors, and brands them as a ‘company with a conscience’, which translates itself into reputational acceleration. For a company, one of your greatest assets, aside from the quality of your employees, is your reputation. You can’t have one without the other.
In this new era, where we all recognize how fragile we are as a global society, we must work together to be a part of the solution. Genuine and quantifiable impact will require all businesses, from Fortune 1000s to microenterprises, to embrace a platform of collective responsibility and a prioritization of the ‘give back’. We owe it to humanity – the future generations who will be responsible for healing the damage that they themselves did nothing to create – to adopt a cooperative mandate of social responsibility. As business leaders, we must take deliberate steps to embrace the SDGs, minimizing our footprint and the damage we cause to the environment, while uplifting, inspiring, and empowering societies. Together, we have the power to heal our global fractures. Together, we can reach new heights of innovation and achievement. Together, we have the power to ‘give’ the future to the hopeful generations who will be charged with carrying our world forward, ensuring that we will continue to thrive, environmentally, socially, and economically.