The way companies give back to their communities is changing – for the better. More and more, we’re seeing the ground shift towards purpose-driven entrepreneurs who combine grit and determination with a passion for doing good.
Socially responsible businesses are partnering with charities and non-profit organizations to create social good that goes far beyond simply building wealth and providing employment, they are building stronger communities. In doing so, business leaders are not only giving back, they are building goodwill from customers and engendering loyalty from socially-conscious investors. If you’ve already been thinking about making this kind of impact with your company, here are four tips that make it easy to get started.
1. Start small
There’s a myth that companies need to devote large resources to being a socially responsible business. Small changes can make a huge difference and you don’t need big budgets to make a big impact. We’re even seeing companies find ways to give back to their community when they’re pre-revenue or looking to get their first seed funding.
You can start an office recycling program, get a local fair-trade coffee supplier for the kitchen, or organize a volunteer activity at the local food bank. These are all easy-to-implement activities that companies of any size can take on. Indeed, if the small business sector – which makes up an astounding 70 percent of the workforce – strives for change, the collective impact on society would be incredible.
2. Connect the cause to your business
If you’re donating to a charity or volunteering your company’s time, it should fit in line with your core values. This, in turn, will help your customers better understand who you are as a company.
As an example, Home Depot, a company synonymous with construction and home improvement, partners with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for those in need. At TELUS, one of our many community investment initiatives is supporting organizations that bolster Canadian entrepreneurs, like Startup Canada, Futurepreneur and INcubes (just to name a few), to demonstrate how incredibly passionate we are about helping small businesses succeed.
You can even make selecting a cause a way to more intimately engage with your customers. Many companies donate a percentage of sales to the cause(s) closest to their customers’ hearts – letting consumers directly contribute to the positive change that the company is creating while building brand loyalty.
3. Encourage your employees to get involved
What I love most about corporate social responsibility is the engagement it drives within a company. At TELUS, we have a passion to volunteer and ‘give where we live’ in the communities where we have a presence. We know that our team members are highly engaged and feel good about coming to work – which shows us that being socially responsible is an excellent strategy for inspiring, retaining and attracting top talent.
Whether you have a team of 1,000 or just two employees, it’s important to include them in your efforts and get them involved early on in the process. Social initiatives don’t need to be launched from the top-down; some of our most successful initiatives have come from a suggestion from employees who have only recently joined the team. Listen to your people and get them involved in the program, right from the start.
4. Share your story
Socially responsible companies don’t just want to have a social impact – they want to inspire others to join them in the cause. It’s important to communicate what you’re trying to accomplish through traditional and social media channels. By doing so, you’re not only raising your company’s profile, but also those of the organizations you support, who can benefit greatly from the extra publicity. These days, it’s easier than ever to get the word out through media releases, eNewsletters, blog posts, Tweets, Facebook ads and more.
When you’re successful, you’ll be engaging your customers to be advocates for the causes you support – they will help tell your stories for you. That will create a one-to-many dynamic that can have the greatest impact of all.
Being a socially responsible organization isn’t just good for business – more than half of online consumers globally are willing to pay more for offerings from companies that have a social purpose – it’s the right thing to do. Visionary entrepreneurs recognize the important role their business can play in building stronger communities around them, and it’s never too early (or too late) to start.
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