How Social Entrepreneurship Can Benefit Businesses and the Communities They Serve
Today's consumers aren't just saying they value social responsibility, they're showing their values through spending.
A 2017 Unilever global study indicated that 33 percent of consumers actively seek brands that reflect a sincere, well-documented desire to promote smart stewardship of planetary, human and other limited resources. Nielsen underscored these numbers, reporting that companies committed to social entrepreneurship were preferred by 56 percent of buyers, regardless of price point.
Coupons, sales and gimmicks no longer move the needle like social entrepreneurship does. Brands with a conscience not only attract better talent and woo discerning consumers, but they also wind up building communities and boosting the bottom line.
As they say, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Focus on making a meaningful change by understanding the value in moving toward a model of social engagement and commitment.
Related: 4 Ways to Engage Your Customers in Social Good -- And Why It Matters
Give a nod to millennials, but don't stop there
Having a corporate heart has become a growing movement, in part because of the millennial workforce. Today, millennials make up the largest segment of the U.S. employee market, and as a group, they want to put in their time at companies invested in making positive social and environmental changes.
Although this generation has gotten a bad rap, millennials are incredibly serious and devoted when teamed with authentically mission-driven organizations. Think you can fake it? Not with these savvy job seekers. They know which companies are providing lip service and which value social and environmental opportunities to make the world safer, healthier, stronger and better in some measurable way.
Of course, millennials may be at the root of this trend, but they aren't the only population clamoring for a work environment that goes beyond churning out profits. Representatives of Generation X and baby boomers -- as well as up-and-comers from Generation Z -- are jumping on the social bandwagon, too.
What this means for you is a chance to carry out one of the most important tasks of your career: transforming your company into one that promotes social entrepreneurship. Start your journey with a few of these strategies:
1. Seek out meaningful causes.
With the world in crisis, you shouldn't have to look far to find a cause that has deep meaning for your team members. Your focus might even come from a personal experience, as it did for Glassybaby's founder, Lee Rhodes.
Rhodes battled cancer three times and couldn't help noticing that the people around her during chemotherapy were far less fortunate than she. They had to choose between the bare necessities and the treatments they desperately needed. Thus, Glassybaby, a distributor of exquisite, handblown glass votive candle holders, was born. Rhodes donates 10 percent of the company's revenue -- not simply profits, but raw purchases -- to promote what she calls "hope and healing" through the white light fund. To date, Glassybaby has raised more than $7 million in support of causes that affect people, the earth and animals.
Related: 5 Lessons We Can All Learn From This Entrepreneur's Philanthropic Journey
2. Open a dialogue with the community to find places to collaborate.
When Working Not Working, a real-time network for broadcasting creatives' availability to businesses, decided to take its innovative mindset to the public, the company looked no further than the city where it's headquartered, Los Angeles. Its initial social project is a relationship with VICE and the Mayor's Office of Innovation, a partnership Working Not Working wants to foster and grow. The partnership's goal? To use debate and discussion to make inroads on issues concerning the people of LA.
If you feel as deeply devoted to your surrounding community as Working Not Working, you can do likewise. Seek out the assistance of local leaders, and offer your help. The stronger you make the ecosystem where you work and live, the more likely you'll be to attract talented, like-minded employees to join you. Better still, they'll be more apt to stay on board because they'll believe in your vision of the future.
3. Establish company-wide volunteering groups.
The act of volunteering with colleagues gives people a sense of purpose outside the workplace. At the same time, it adds positivity to the community. Plus, people who enjoy serving others tend to be great leaders; that's a fantastic quality you can hone to ensure your management team is service-oriented and powerful.
To show your support of volunteering, why not add it to the benefits of working with your organization? You can offer a specific number of volunteer days per year as a perk, allowing employees to choose which nonprofits and causes they want to support, as well as when it's convenient for them to take off work to give back.
Related: 10 Ways Small Businesses Can Give Back Without Breaking the Bank
4. Be an inspiration by modeling social responsibility.
Thanks to the internet and social media, in particular, your brand can directly communicate with consumers. Rather than hide your social leanings, use these platforms to become an inspiration to the public. Post images, write blog posts and share experiences. The more human your brand becomes, the more likely you'll be to build loyal customers.
Encourage this same type of online motivation among your team members by urging them to practice the art of spreading optimism and inspiration. You can also designate passionate colleagues to help share your brand's voice, message and beliefs through your company's corporate channels.
Being a leader in the social entrepreneurship space takes forethought and sincerity, but the time invested can deliver far-reaching payoffs. Not only will your enterprise be seen as an appealing place to work by top emerging talent, but you'll also feel satisfied on an emotional level that you're not just going to work: You're honestly making a difference.