More and more businesses these days are committed not just to selling products or services and making a profit, but also, on ways in which they can be a force for good. There are not-for-profit organisations that exist purely to help other people, creatures, or the environment. Many companies are also creating their own philanthropic arms or finding ways to give back via other methods.
This “social responsibility” set up is an ethical framework that revolves around the idea of entities, either organisations or individuals, acting for the benefit of society at large, not just themselves. This giving focus helps to maintain a balance between the economy and the various ecosystems in the world.
There are four main ways to enact social responsibility. One of the most common is via philanthropic efforts, whereby money is diverted from a business and used to help others. For example, tech giant Microsoft works closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while Commonwealth Bank has the CommBank Foundation and Virgin has its Virgin Unite foundation.
On a smaller, but no-less-important scale, many businesses have joined B1G1, a global “business giving initiative” that helps companies have a positive impact on the world with every transaction. A percentage of each sale is donated to those in need. Companies without the ability to donate a percentage of sales to charities help out in other ways, by setting up regular fundraising events or supporting not-for-profits with one-off projects.
Environmental conservation is another key area of social responsibility. Firms aligning themselves to saving the planet and helping to work against climate change operate in an environmentally- friendly way, and take steps to reduce their overall carbon footprint. Each business aligned to this mindset does what it can to operate with as little burden on the environment as possible.
Thirdly, social responsibility incorporates diversity in the workplace and fair labor practices. This means teams are made up of people from diverse backgrounds and ages, and all workers are treated fairly and equally, no matter their race, age, sex, religion, or other factor.
The fourth arm of social responsibility is volunteering. Today, many companies set up programs whereby their employees are given opportunities to volunteer with local communities and charities throughout the year. Businesses may align themselves with one organisation to support, or let staff members have time off to support the not-for-profits of their choice.
It’s important to note that social responsibility doesn’t need to be driven purely at the organisational level. As a worker, you may want, for example, to choose your employer based on how they give back to the world and the philanthropic or volunteering opportunities you’ll receive on the job. Reports are released each year that provide information about some of the most socially responsible companies in the country to work for, so these are a good place to start. Alternatively, do your own research.
Studies show that workers who know they work for a socially responsible company, and who get to be involved in giving back themselves are more engaged and happy in their roles. They’re also more committed to their roles. Choosing a responsible business to work for is a simple yet effective way to make a difference.
Plus, as a bonus, if you get involved in charitable activities at work, you’re likely to develop new skills. For example, when volunteering, you may grow as a leader, become a better communicator, and learn how to organise events and work in a team more effectively.
If you want to make a career out of helping the less fortunate and the voiceless, though, consider going down the path of running your own socially responsible venture. You could set up a charitable organisation that plows profits back into assisting others (Oxfam Australia, The Smith Family, and Mission Australia are examples of this), or you could set up a business whose very products or services revolve around giving back.
For example, Toms is a for-profit business that operates on the “one for one” principle. The company gives away one pair of shoes (or other accessory, now they’ve expanded their range) to someone in need for every pair it sells. Eyewear company Warby Parker is another example of this business model.
Being socially responsible doesn’t have to mean that you give up earning a good living or doing the kind of job you’re passionate about. In fact, businesses committed to helping the less fortunate typically find their branding and sales improve due to positive customer perceptions. Plus, you’ll get to feel good about going to work each day, knowing that you’re making a positive impact.