Within any industry, the bottom line is always the number one priority. Increasingly however, conducting business in a socially responsible manner is becoming more and more important.
Cynics might suggest that this increased awareness of ethics is all about marketing, and let’s be honest - brand image is vital. Within the international public forum that is social networking, a bad reputation can spread like wildfire
For many big businesses, social responsibility represents a combination of good ethics and marketing, and there are a variety of ways to go about this. At the opposite end of the scale, as sole traders and entrepreneurs, what can we learn from a big business approach to social responsibility?
Getting involved with specific communities
At a local level, working alongside specific communities (perhaps disadvantaged people, or local groups and organisations) is an effective strategy. But you don’t have to be a community-led business to do this.
Tech giants Microsoft, who run a charity arm of their business, are extremely involved at the local level, providing education programmes across the country. The company encourages its staff to volunteer at disadvantaged schools to teach computer science.
Not only is this approach good for Microsoft’s brand image and for the communities involved, but also addresses the shortage of IT professionals in the US.
Microsoft’s prolonged engagement with these communities and dedication to social responsibility has certainly contributed to their stellar reputation. While this level of philanthropy is not possible for entrepreneurs at a smaller scale, becoming involved with communities at a local level is a good approach to ethical business.
Supporting a cause
Conservation is often at the heart of responsible business practice, particularly for companies operating in unethical or wasteful industries. The international fashion retailer, YOOX offers a good example of this, through their Yoox Loves the Reef initiative.
By partnering with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Australian brand We Are Handsome, Yoox Loves the Reef promotes conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, which hasdeclined by 50% between 1985 and 2012.
This cause is particularly appropriate within the fashion industry, which has a long history of environmentally irresponsible practice. Such an approach from YOOX demonstrates compassion and self-awareness of their industry’s flaws, which can easily be applied at any level of operation.
Again, at any level, all businesses should be striving for more environmentally sound practice. For companies who have received criticism, socially responsible business demonstrates a commitment to positive change, and that you listen to criticism.
Starbucks, who received criticism in the past for their environmental impact, focussed on promoting recycling through the introduction of recyclable cups, and offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups. They even gave away coffee grounds for composting, further reducing their waste.
This dedication to social responsibility has not only allowed Starbucks to change their narrative, but a reduced eco footprint is better for all of us.
There is a lot to be learned from these various big businesses, and their socially responsible practice. Adopting such an approach is advantageous across the board, and for entrepreneurs at any level, the benefits of focussing on socially responsible practice are clear.