I often hear this from people:
”I need to make sure my business can survive before I start thinking about doing good
”When my startup gets to X size, we’ll start giving back to the community
Does this sound like you?
Well, what if I told you that you can create social impact right now without sacrificing that unrelenting focus on growth your investors (or soon-to-be investors) demand. No matter what size or stage your startup is at, and without breaking the bank. Here are 3 easy things that you can do to get started right now.
1) Put your money where your mouth is.
Your purchase decisions can create huge impact. Both negative and positive. So, when you have the choice, and with all things being equal, why not source your stuff from social enterprises?
Need some business cards or would like to send a special thank you card to a client? Get your printing and design work done by Words with Heart – eco stationary and custom printing that funds education for women and girls in developing countries.
Hosting Friday night drinks with the team this week? Do you know what tastes extra refreshing and delicious, with a hint of saving the world? You can get your weekly craft beer fix from local social enterprises like The Good Beer Company and take a cool swig of their Great Barrier Beer, all in support of Australia’s greatest marine park – the Great Barrier Reef!
Another favourite of mine from the boys in Byron Bay is Stone & Wood. Doing good can be as easy as heading to your local bottle-o and grabbing a case beer.
Is wine your poison of choice? Melbourne-based Kooks make socially-conscious handcrafted wine and “leave out all the usual stuffiness, stinginess and snobbery you often find in ‘good wine’” (according to them).
When you’re choosing where to source from, why not check out the MANY social enterprises around the world (and right here in Australia) that provide top quality products, sourced from ethical sources, that are environmentally friendly, and/or support local communities.
For a quick go-to source, check out the B Corporation Certified organisations from around the world. B Corporation Certification is like the fair-trade certification for the social business world. Collectively, B Corps lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for good. Individually, B Corporations meet the highest standard of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
TLDR; If you’re going to be buying something, make that purchase count.
2) Doing good is good business.
Nielsen’s 2014 Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility shows that, “55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.” And, according to CECP’s 2013 Infographic, more consumers want to know what companies are doing to improve communities and want to spend their hard-earned dollars with companies that do better at doing good.
It’s not only consumers that are demanding more from businesses. CECP’s 2014 Giving in Numbers Report suggests that employees want to work at companies with good values.
Start-ups that ingrain social impact at the core of their mission right at the start will continue to create impact as they grow. Read this Medium post by Damon O'Sullivan, Founder & Director of Melbourne-based, social innovation consultancy firm, Thick on how they got started what it's meant for their business. They've been donating 5% of their revenue to charity since inception and at the end of 2016 reached two milestones: 5 years of doing it; and, their first $500,000 donated.
So what can you do now to incorporate social impact as part of your business? Check out resources like Shared Value Initiative for case studies on how others have done it. B Corporation has some great information on how you can measure your social impact and get everything in order legally. Social Change Central has a pretty handy Social Lean Canvas for you to turn your ideas in to action and also provides information on opportunities available in Australia for social enterprises.
TLDR; Business is no longer just about making money. Creating social impact is increasingly becoming more important to everyday consumers and your business model can make all the difference when starting up.
3) Do less harm.
In 2015, American author and newspaper columnist, Anand Giridharadas got up on stage at the Aspen Action Forum in front of top leaders in the social justice world to say:
”When you give back, when you have a side foundation, a side CSR project, a side social-impact fund, you gain an exemption from more rigorous scrutiny. You helped 100 poor kids in the ghetto learn how to code. The indulgence spares you from questions about the larger systems and structures you sustain that benefit you and punish others: weak banking regulations and labour laws, zoning rules that happen to keep the poor far from your neighbourhood, porous safety nets, the enduring and unrepaired legacies of slavery and racial supremacy and caste systems.
Anand boldly points out the overwhelming incentive to “give back” after we have already taken, rather than focussing on how to reduce our impact when taking. For many businesses and industries, the incremental change they make by giving back is often far outweighed by the negative effects of operating their core business.
”Many of the winners of our age are active, vigorous contributors to the problems they bravely seek to solve. And for the greater good to prevail on any number of issues, some people will have to lose — to actually do less harm, and not merely more good. We know that enlightened capital didn’t get rid of the slave trade. Impact investing didn’t abolish child labor and put fire escapes on tenement factories. Drug makers didn’t stop slipping antifreeze into medicine as part of a CSR initiative. In each of these cases, the interests of the many had to defeat the interests of the recalcitrant few.
If there’s one thing that you take away from this today, it’s to be more conscious about your individual impact. Because even though your individual impact may be small, collectively we can change the world (as cliché as that may sound). Taking a critical and tough look inwards will reveal many small things that we are each guilty of. To start, I encourage you to check out Anand’s talk here or read the transcript here.
”We talk a lot here about giving more. We don’t talk about taking less. We talk a lot here about what we should be doing more of. We don’t talk about what we should be doing less of.