Social responsibility is all about caring for society. A growing number of businesses are taking more measures to be more socially responsible - not just because it’s the ethical thing to do, but because it’s also the profitable thing to do.
Many of today’s customers aren’t just interested in how a company can benefit them - they want to make sure that their purchase also benefits society at large. Similarly, many young jobseekers only want to work for companies that have good ethics. In other words, if you want to attract customers and employees, social responsibility is key.
There are lots of ways in which you can become a socially responsible business. Below are just a few measures worth considering.
Take Steps To Be More Environmentally Friendly
Environmental issues such as climate change, plastic pollution and wildlife endangerment are becoming more serious threats. Unless the human race changes its ways, these environmental problems will become irreversible.
Your small business could help to be a part of this change and an influence to others. More customers are becoming eco-conscious and are rejecting companies that aren’t taking steps to protect the environment. This is why it’s so important to go green, regardless of your environmental beliefs.
There are all kinds of ways to be environmentally friendly. If you sell a product, you could opt for recyclable packaging, choose local suppliers and take steps to promote green forms of shipping. If you provide a service, you could look into ways of reducing power consumption and find ways to reduce travel (such as opting for video calls instead of travelling to meetings).
In many cases, going green can also save you money. More companies are embracing renewable energy as a power source and going paperless to save money and save the planet. This is another great reason to be environmentally-friendly.
Give To Charity
Instead of keeping all your profits for yourself, consider donating some of them to charitable causes that you are passionate about. Being a charitable company can be a way of giving back - and giving makes us all feel good. It can also be good for business - a lot of customers may be encouraged to use your company knowing that some money from their purchase is going to help a good cause.
Start by choosing a cause that matters to you. This could be anything from helping the homeless to helping fund research for diseases like cancer and dementia. If you have employees, you may be able to work with them to find a cause that you are all passionate about.
There are lots of different ways to give to charity. You could donate a small amount of proceeds from every purchase. Alternatively, you could find ways to donate money separately such as keeping a donation jar, asking customers to make voluntary donations while paying or hosting charity funding events. You could even create your own charity organization, allowing you to choose exactly where your donations go.
Show Support For Minority Groups
Minority groups include people who have characteristics that are different to the majority of people. It used to be a case that few companies catered to minorities, while some even actively discriminated against them. Nowadays, such behavior can be damaging to the reputation of companies - in order to attract customers, companies need to actively support minority groups.
It’s worth starting by considering ways in which you can support ethnic minorities. This could include actively hiring more people from ethnic backgrounds. It could also include representing more ethnic minorities within your marketing - this could include making sure that promotional videos and images aren’t just full of white consumers, or it could include supporting artists and creators from ethnic minorities such as considering these aboriginal gifts as promotional products. All in all, you should aim to be more cosmopolitan in attitude.
Next, you should consider those with disabilities. Hiring people with certain disabilities may not be possible in certain roles, however if there is no major practical disadvantage you should consider being open to candidates with disabilities. Similarly, you should make sure that your product or services caters to those with disabilities. Inclusive design has become a more talked-about topic in recent years - this could include making sure that text can be easily read (to cater for those that are colorblind) or making sure that packaging can be easily opened. There may also be modifications worth making to your business premises such as adding wheelchair access and a disabled toilet with compliant bathroom partition dimensions.
In some businesses, it could also be important to consider inclusivity towards LGBT people. On top of not discriminating while hiring and representing these minorities within your marketing, you should also consider things such as using the right pronouns towards LGBTQI+ staff/customers and possibly installing unisex toilets.
Invest In Employee Wellbeing
A socially responsible business should also invest in the wellbeing of its employees. Companies that treat staff poorly can often garner a negative reputation - you may find it hard to hire employees because of this and you may even find that customers boycott your business.
Just how can you invest in employee wellbeing? Investing in health and safety is the biggest thing you can do. On top of protecting your workers against immediate dangers, consider long-term dangers such as repetitive strain injuries and find ways to reduce these such as buying ergonomic office chairs or low-vibration power tools. You should also look out for your employees’ mental health.
Another way to invest in employee wellbeing is to offer a good benefit package. This could include a good amount of annual paid time off and possibly perks such as health insurance or discounts to local services.
Work With Socially Responsible Suppliers
You should be careful when selecting your suppliers. Socially responsible businesses care about who they work with and will often avoid companies that use unethical practices. This ensures that you’re funding unethical behavior. It can also prevent your reputation being dragged down for working with this company.
Always research the reputation of suppliers before choosing to work with them. Make sure that they have not been involved in any public scandal and that they have socially responsible policies. When choosing foreign producers of food or materials, look into whether they are classed as ‘fair trade’ - this will ensure that you’re not supporting cheap labor or child labor. Make sure that all materials are sourced from ethical places (for example, if you need timber, try to prioritize suppliers that source wood from sustainable forests or use reclaimed wood if possible).
Raise Awareness Of Social Issues
Owning a business gives you a platform to raise awareness of social issues. This could include environmental issues, social injustice issues or health issues. Consider using your marketing to raise awareness of these problems on top of promoting your business. This could include encouraging people to donate money or it could involve asking people to help protest such as signing petitions.
In years gone by, businesses have been discouraged from sharing political opinions, but recently it has become more common for companies to take sides. Be careful of openly supporting a political party if you think it could negatively impact your consumer base - bigger and more established can often get away with it more easily.
You should similarly be careful of taking part in brand wars against other businesses you don’t ethically agree with. Generally speaking, small businesses shouldn’t try to take on other businesses alone, unless you’re able to do it in a cheeky playful way.