Giving Back Is How Your Startup Changes the World A vision company with vision goes beyond 'buy-one, give-one,' to create a self-sustaining diagnostic and education program.
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Selfless or selfish? Corporate responsibility, strategic philanthropy or social responsibility: the role of business in society has many names. Regardless of the label, the idea is centered around creating a shared value between the business and for society. Many businesses, large and small, are assessing their impact on society and evaluating their individual responsibilities in the areas of community and environment. But is it a smart move? Should a company invest its money into social and environmental programs?
While many naysayers argue that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is nothing more than an attempt to boost the reputation of the company and increase profits, many corporate leaders feel compelled to serve their community and society as a whole.
And why can't both business and society benefit? In fact, they can.
How businesses can change the world.
We only have one world to live in -- at least as far as we know. Why wouldn't we want to care and support the people who live in it, especially when we have the means to do so? Business owners and corporations have the ability and social platforms to make an impact far greater than a single individual, and many are inspired to do so.
Habir Sian, founder of Kingsley Eyewear, is one business founder who has been inspired to make an impact in the world through the social responsibility of his company. On a flight home from Italy about a year and a half ago, a light bulb went off for Habir. At 35,000 feet, a dream began.
There are millions of people around the world who do not have access to any type of eye care -- even the most basic. Why not change that? Habir is a successful optometrist with a deep passion for eye care. He has personally participated in vision clinics for low income societies in the United States and South America, and doing so completely changed his perspective of the world. "You hear the stories, but you really don't know until you experience it," he says.
A vision company with vision.
What started as a simple "buy one, give one" concept where eyeglasses were donated to those in need has morphed into proof that corporate social responsibility can truly make a difference in the world and that the motives are far beyond income goals. "We can give you a pair of glasses. But how do you know you need them without an eye exam?"
What if, instead, the company set up sustainable eye clinics in poverty stricken parts of the world in addition to donating eye glasses? Now it is essentially creating self-sustaining health care that goes way beyond a simple donation. This is what Kingsley stands for and is a large part of the company's vision and long-term goals.
Kingsley isn't alone. Many businesses and corporations are getting involved in their community -- whether local and worldwide. And they aren't just giving their product away. They are getting involved in an education process, which is what ultimately drives change in the world.
Corporate social responsibility makes better businesses.
When businesses do great things, the people around them do great things. And it makes sense. People like working for, and with, companies that are giving back. It makes everyone feel part of something larger than themselves.
Employees stay longer and are more engaged when the companies they work for are socially responsible. Of course that benefits the business, but it also benefits the people. Employees are more passionate about their work when they are inspired, and they enjoy going to work each day.
Consumers also would rather spend their money in businesses that give back. People have a choice about where to spend their money and where to work.
Most people also become more philanthropically minded when they are exposed to corporate philanthropy. Corporate social responsibility impacts everyone, and both the business and society benefits in more ways than one.
Walking the talk.
"I wanted to reach more people -- not sell more glasses -- but actually help," says Habir, Kingsley founder. And that is exactly what he is doing.
When people choose to buy their eyewear from Kingsley, they are getting much more than a set of glasses. They are getting the opportunity to give people in a different part of the world the education and supplies needed to properly care for their eyes. This is an opportunity that would have never existed without CSR. And it is a win for everyone involved.
A business can gain many benefits from behaving responsibility, but the impacts of corporate philanthropy go far beyond profit margin and increased sales. When businesses choose to do good for the world, the world actually changes. Lives are impacted. Minds are changed. People are developed. The world becomes a better place. And isn't that something we all want?
Perhaps instead of questioning the motives of businesses, we should all consider the notion that no harm can come from giving back and embrace the possibility the opposite is true.