In today’s retail climate, consumers are in control. Businesses are forced to be more transparent, and are being held to higher standards in regards to the who, what, where and how their products are being produced. If you’re found to take shortcuts in quality, have a negative impact on the environment, or enlist the labor of those disproportionately compensated, the public will find out and your status and sales will suffer as a result. In the age of technology news travels quickly, and for companies who aren’t socially responsible, new travels like wildfire.
Companies like Tom’s and Patagonia have set the standard on what it means to be socially responsible, each sacrificing resources for the greater good. Their effort do not go unnoticed and because the y care about others they are handsomely rewarded by consumers who appreciate their efforts and want to be involved also.
To better understand what it means to be socially responsible we’ll discuss what social responsibility is, what it means for a company to be socially responsible, sharing examples and tips to help you become social responsibility with tips.
What is Social Responsibility?
Entrepreneur defines Social Responsibility as: acting with concern and sensitivity; being aware of the impact your actions have on others, and the environment.
What does it Mean for a Business to be Socially Responsible?
There are many ways for a business to be socially responsible. Something as simple as providing a recycling system at the workplace, while also providing recyclable utensils, and motion sensor lighting shows a company is aware of their environmental impact and their desire to minimizing this impact. Teaming up with a local non-profit for a food or coat drive is also a good way for businesses to get involved in their communities.
Examples of Social Responsibility:
Tom’s Shoes: Introducing a business model many brands have adopted themselves, Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe purchased around the world. Not only does this model provide a simple way for consumers to get involved and show their support in a simple fun way, the shoes truly make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.
Patagonia: Much like Tom’s, Patagonia created its own way of doing things that other businesses are implementing. While Tom’s is giving away a pair of shoes for every pair purchased, Patagonia is forcing mills and factories to improve the efficiency of their machinery processes with a focus on minimizing the huge impact fashion has on the world. If factories and mills don’t meet their standards, they will discontinue doing business with the factory until improvements are made.
Patagonia also shares their factory and mills list with other brands in hopes that those that are sub-par will feel the heat losing money can bring.
How Can You Make a Difference?
As a smaller business, you most likely have fewer resources compared to brands like Tom’s and Patagonia, but despite the difference in resources you still can make your own impact in your own way.
Entrepreneur’s article on social responsibility shares these tips:
Set goals. What do you want to achieve? What do you want your company to achieve? Do you want to enter a new market? Introduce a new product? Enhance your business’s image?
Decide what cause you want to align yourself with. This may be your toughest decision, considering all the option out there: children, the environment, senior citizens, homeless people, people with disabilities–the list goes on. You might want to consider a cause that fits in with your products or services. For example, a manufacturer of women’s clothing could get involved in funding breast cancer research. Another way to narrow the field is by considering not only causes you feel strongly about, but also those that your customers consider significant.
Choose a nonprofit or other organization to partner with. Get to know the group, and make sure it’s sound, upstanding, geographically convenient and willing to cooperate with you in developing a partnership.
Design a program, and propose it to the nonprofit group. Besides laying out what you plan to accomplish, also include indicators that will measure the program’s success in tangible terms.
Negotiate an agreement with the organization. Know what they want before you sit down, and try to address their concerns upfront.
Involve employees. Unless you get employees involved from the beginning, they won’t be able to communicate the real caring involved in the campaign to customers.
Involve customers. Don’t just do something good and tell your customers about it later. Get customers involved, too. A sporting goods store could have customers bring in used equipment for a children’s shelter, then give them a 15 percent discount on new purchases. Make it easy for customer to do good; then reward them for doing it.