By Deb Flomberg

Today’s consumers are smarter and more engaged than ever before, and they expect the companies they do business with act in ways that align with their values. Just 10 years ago, there were only a few Fortune 500 companies that issued reports on sustainability; now, nearly every Fortune 500 company has a sustainability report. Even the smallest organization has some sort of social responsibility as part of its mission these days. If your business hasn’t thought about it, the time to begin is now.

Customers Will Pay More

A 2014 Nielsen survey determined that more than 50 percent of online consumers would pay more for a product or service if it was from a company they believed to be socially or environmentally responsible. That’s a big number, and it’s hard for any business owner to look the other way in light of statistics like that. Corporate social responsibility is more than just a small philanthropic arm of your HR department; now it’s a whole school of thought, a catalyst for change and a way for all organizations to do business.

Generate Ideas

Once you realize how important social responsibility is to your new, more modern bottom line, it’s time to get some ideas on waysyour business can be more socially responsible. Instead of picking one or two causes that feel fashionable to the executives in your business, source those ideas from the bottom up. Open up the doors and see what causes your employees will truly get behind. Then use those ideas to create a new, more responsible company culture. You can even enlist your best customers to help keep the momentum going; and don’t be afraid to ask your team, your customers and even your competition to join in the cause.

Partner With Others

Speaking of competition, now is the time to align yourself with them. Partner with similar organizations and you can really make some changes in the world. As soon as those barriers come down, you’ll see that many business owners value open communication between competitors, and you’ll end up helping communication across the industry while also doing some good for the planet. This works especially well with non-profits and smaller businesses, as partnering with similar organizations can also take the strain off an already thinly-stretched business owner.

Make It Last

People are smart, and these days they’re even more tuned into social issues. They can spot a fake from a mile away and will know if you’re only half-hearted about your efforts to be a socially responsible organization. If you’re just cutting a check, it will look that way. However, if you make real, scalable and permanent changes that can actually last, and if you’re looking to make an impact on the way your organization does business in a changing world, well, that’s what they’re looking to buy into. Make sure your ideas are more than just good ideas. They need to be self-sustaining, attainable and achievable over an extended period of time. You’ll also want to input some measurement tools so you can have definitive answers when your staff (or when the media) comes asking to see how responsible your business truly is.


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