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How to Survive the Crisis: 7 Steps to Turn Your Business into a Social Enterprise Customers now demand social responsibility and this is no time to disappoint. Learn how to survive the crisis by being strategic and sustainable.

By Jessica Lohmann Edited by Jason Fell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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phokin | Getty Images

For the first time in history, all humans are dealing with the same thing: just trying to survive the crisis. Be it physically, financially and/or emotionally.

Personally, I'm also thinking about how entrepreneuers can come out of this thriving and be prepared for the next crisis. Are you?

Experts agree that occurances such as these will happen again. Whether it's another pandemic, natural disaster from climate change or destroying entire forests to feed cattle, fact is, this is just the beginning if we don't change how we live and run our businesses.

To create change, we need the desire, a strategy, time and energy which is why humans are not always willing to change.

But, if we don't change and stay stuck in survival mode so that we only have enough energy to think about paying our bills or employees next month, our future will remain uncertain.

Building a more sustainable future just makes more sense.

Entrepreneurs who are strategic now will be more likely to survive the crisis and anything else that gets thrown our way in the future.

How to survive the crisis.

If you're in business to truly help others and not just to earn lots of money, then you have a chance -- and a responsibility -- to make a difference in this world.

Last year's Fridays for Future and XR demonstrations, for example, inspired many people to be more conscious about their plastic use and CO2 emissions.

What kind of positive changes are currently happening?

  1. Ethical businesses are popping up like weeds.
  2. Alternative products now being produced are plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free, organic, waste-free, paraben-free, palm oil-free, etc.
  3. Workers are of age and receive a fair wage.
  4. Big brands are creating new green products lines. Even if some are greenwashing, they're successfully bringing the idea of creating a more sustainable world to the mass market.
  5. Marketers are now trying to stop destroying our environment by not using manipulation tactics.
  6. Consumers are becoming more conscious about how their products are made and are changing the way they shop. Ethics has as much importance for consumers than quality and they will buycott (support) ethical brands and boycott those they deem 'unethical'.

What about COVID-19?

Has anything changed since we've been on lockdown?

Well, we're currently learning to slow down, save money, spend more quality time with family, minimize, prep and apparently, use less toilet paper. I'm also learning how to play the guitar.

Not only that, COVID teaches us to be more conscious about how we treat others and (hopefully) how we treat animals.

Pandemics occur when we domesticated animals and have a lack of proper hygiene when handling them.

So, if we treat animals with the respect and care they deserve, we will greatly reduce future zoologically-based pandemics, if not eliminate them altogether.

It certainly sounds simple, but as a vegan social entrepreneur and eco fantasy author who markets, writes and speaks for the animals, curbing animal cruelty IS my purpose, my manifesto and is engrained in most everything I do and say.

What about you?

Do you also feel a calling to create change? In your own industry or in this world?

Are you willing to invest a good portion of your profits? I don't just mean donating to a charity. I mean to invest time, energy and money into solving a particular problem in this world.

If so, then please consider turning your enterprise into a social enterprise.

And help create the change you want to see in this world.

Defining social enterprise.

A social enterprise is a business that has a social or environmental purpose.

Be it to help protect nature and animals, support research projects to avoid future pandemics, help solve world hunger, finance schools so that children can learn and not work, help fund farming projects in underdeveloped countries, etc.

That purpose -- your cause -- is the reason why you're in business. Not to earn lots of money because your profits will be reinvested to help make a positive impact in the cause you support, not buy yourself a yacht.

That's what being a social entrepreneur is all about. Not to say that you won't be able to afford a yacht. I'm just guessing that if you're in this with your whole heart and soul, it just won't be as important anymore and you'll most likely end up spending that money to help others out.

7 Steps to Turn your Enterprise into a Social Enterprise

1. Choose your calling.

Figure out what you're most passionate about and where you can make the greatest impact in your business.

The United Nations developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help solve the main problems we face as a society. Which goal -- or goals -- speak to you the most? Where can your business make the biggest difference?

Niching down to only one or a few goals will help you become more focussed and attract those customers who are passionate about the same thing.

2. Consult with your team.

Present your ideas and brainstorm how to most effectively execute them. I almost guarantee your employees will be thrilled.

3. Develop a giving back strategy.

Once you and your team are clear on your purpose, you're ready to choose your charity partners. With microfunding and microlending organizations such as B1G1 and Kiva, you're able to fund various projects that help reach your chosen SDGs as well as create giving back stories such as 'For every newsletter subscriber, we provide a day of vaccinations for street dogs in Nepal.' Through my B1G1 membership, I funded 591 days in 2019.

Since January, I'm a member of 1% for the Planet so that I can establish a long-term, close relationship inkl. active participation in volunteering projects with a couple of charity partners who are as passionate about nature and animals as I am.

4. Clean up your supply chain (if you're product-based).

This is the toughest step because it costs time and money. How much? Depends on how complicated your production chain is. Your entire supply chain doesn't have to be green right away though. It's actually not advisable because a drastic change in price may scare off our customers.

It's easier to inspect one link at a time and try to find a more sustainable alternative or supplier if necessary. First try to inspire your valuable suppliers to offer a better alternative.

As long as you make a conscious effort to improve things step by step and are honest about it, your customers will trust you and remain loyal.

5. Optimize your business processes.

Are there internal processes you have that could be 'greener'? Ask your team to help you with this. From webhosting to video conferencing instead of traveling to healthier snacks in a vending machine that uses less energy to digitilizing your internal processes and using recycled paper for necessary printouts. Here's a good reference list on how to make your office greener.

6. Communicate your efforts.

Once you've made some changes, communicate them. If you've only been able to change one thing, you could write that you're taking your cause very seriously, but can only change one thing at a time and are excited to improve the next thing: and literally name that next thing.

For the love of your business, please avoid using greenwashing tactics as consumers are learning how to identify manipulation.

For example: I'm not using a green webhosting service because my contract's still in effect for the next two years. Before that runs out, I'll switch to a green host. I have, however, asked my current provider if they offer green hosting. The call center woman replied with a definite 'Yes!' but was unable to tell me any details. After I asked too many questions she didn't understand, she referred me to their host, my neighbor, in The Netherlands who then referred me back to my host in the US because I got the same response.

Conclusion: My current host doesn't offer green hosting by any means and has not properly communicated with their support team about it. This kind of dishonesty will only help you lose customers. It never pays to lie.

7. Build strong collaborations.

Collaboration in the new competition. Working together with someone or a company who shares your values -- regardless if it's your competition or not -- is an opportunity to make a greater impact faster. I often collaborate with my competition if the trust and integrity are there and our values are in alignment.

What I wish for.

If you think about your business in a more sustainable and strategic way, you'll be more apt to survive the crisis. And be more prepared to thrive.

That's what I wish for you.

For the world and all life on Earth, I wish social entrepreneurship becomes the standard and some day, the ONLY way, to run a business.

Power to the people who care.

Jessica Lohmann

Ethical Marketing Strategist

Jessica, founder of Ethical Brand Marketing + marketing strategist since 1991, has led marketing teams in various sectors in the USA + Germany. Her vision of a kind, healthy and abundant world for all leads her mission of helping social entrepreneurs create + implement ethical marketing strategies.
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