Leading our businesses into the future requires us to take a brave step back from considering bottom line profit the only mark of success. What is it going to cost us as a global civilization to reach this level of success?
The world is facing the gravest of circumstances and it is the responsibility of everyone to find a way of standing up to climate breakdown. Not one person can ignore their behavior and consumer decisions. We have to make changes and we have to make them now.
The recent IPCC report shows us that we have just 12 years to limit global temperature increase to 1.5C. The alternative is worldwide catastrophe. If we miss that target and temperatures increase by 2C, 99% of coral reefs could be gone. Food scarcity and climate refugees would skyrocket. Low-lying countries could face devastation.
The Rise of Ethical Consumption and Its Impact on Small Business
“35% of consumers said they’d spend more on a product that is better for the environment. Among millennials, that rises to almost 75%. While those may sound staggering, it’s likely that both figures will grow as we become more aware of our impact on the planet.”
Last year in the UK, the value of ethical spending hit a massive £81.3 billion. Consumers are increasingly choosing ethical products, from cleaning supplies to energy providers. Catering for ethical consumers is no longer an ideological decision — it’s a financial one.
Consumer psychology, evident in their behavior, show that they want change and businesses need to meet the new demands.
Getting Started with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
A great way to make an entry into a more sustainable culture is to look at your CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects and consider taking a deeper investment in how close they are to your overall business goals.
CSR is either proactive or reactive. It’s either planned and executed or it’s thrown together at the last minute with a lump sum of money. We also know that consumers are becoming smarter and researching the true sustainability of a company. You can no longer get away with ‘greenwashing’ because you will get found out.
We also know that consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that is investing in a good CSR project. Your company should be investing in the future and the best way to do that is to actually care what that future might look like.
Examples of Companies That Practice Corporate Social Responsibility
Companies that build CSR into their core values are the ones doing it right. Whether that’s using frameworks like the B-Corporation to adhere to guidelines that will ensure you take a full 360 view of sustainability and ethical practices in your company, or for larger companies focusing on environmental factors, companies like the Global Reporting Initiative can provide great access to creating positive change.
Ben & Jerry’s
The ice cream label known the world over for its iconic flavors is also known for its culture of giving back and working to create a better world. The B&J foundation was created with an initial gift of 50,000 shares, and the commitment from their board that 7.5 percent of the company’s pretax profits would be set aside for philanthropic work.
The foundation awards more than $1.8 million per year to fund community action, social change, and other sustainability initiatives in its home state of Vermont and throughout the USA. From August 2nd to October 15th this year, small organizations can apply for three years of funding from B&J for a community-building project of their choice to make a difference — on the ground, where it matters.
Arguably the most iconic brand in adventure sports, Patagonia is a rags-to-riches story that breaks all the rules on creating a successful business. Founder Yvon Chouinard refers to himself as a ‘dirtbag entrepreneur’ preferring the mountains to the boardroom.
Their aim of being a ‘responsible company’ is built into the very foundations of the company, and their support of activism all over the globe shows just how committed they are. Moreover, it’s built into their products and their return or repair service. Patagonia is one of few companies that encourages consumers not to buy more of their products unless they absolutely have to.
Their social responsibility statistics are still pretty epic, with 1% of all sales donated to the 1% For The Planet initiative and $2.5 million donated to grants supporting environmental causes all over the globe. They are truly leading the way in creating a global brand that actually stands for something.
Tips for Moving Forward with CSR
If you are reading this and thinking about how to make an effort in moving forward but are feeling a little overwhelmed by the energy it will require, then here are some easy tips that can be applied to your business.
Offset your carbon
There are great organizations out there making it easier than ever to pay back your own carbon tax. Changing your organization isn’t going to happen overnight but you can spend a few hours calculating your carbon usage for a year and pay it down.
For personal and small business offsets I’d recommend CarbonFootprint.com and for larger corporations then Eco-Act is the way forward. Both of these organizations are committed to change and make it easy for you to get started.
Integrate sustainability into your brand
You need to integrate your CSR, your sustainability projects and all the other great stuff happening in your company into your brand. I suspect that if you looked there are lots of amazing people doing amazing things in your company that are for the benefit of the planet or society.
There are probably lots of people running races, skydiving or baking cakes to help support their chosen cause. Wouldn’t it be great if they felt a strong connection between their work life and their ability to do good in the world? Aren’t they going to be motivated to work knowing that they are saving the planet a little bit or supporting their local community in some way? That cannot happen unless you take the steps to become that company. It’s not enough to just have a department — you need to create a culture.
Look at your core values and mission statement. Is your culture a reflection of that?
Get out of the office
It’s important that you show your company that it’s OK to spend a small amount of company time working together to make a difference in the world. Dedicating time to projects outside of the office makes it easy for your staff to do volunteering.
This has two major positives. Not only will your staff be happier and more productive, but your company will actually be out in your local community changing its reputation and creating goodwill among consumers and residents.
Our guest author Mark Roberts is CEO of Conscious Creatives, a sustainable marketing agency pursuing a greater purpose. Based on the UK’s beautiful Cornish coastline, Conscious Creatives is at the forefront of creating and growing more responsible companies.