Driving positive change

The world has changed. It's no longer a choice between making money and doing good. Today's businesses also have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. A business can be both profitable and purpose or mission-driven, as it gives back to society in multiple ways.

While most companies are focused on the extrinsic motivation of making money to expand their operations and satisfy shareholders, businesses are now starting to shift toward a more intrinsic motivation — a sense of purpose. Specifically, many are trying to fulfil a higher calling by providing value to customers and the world at large.

As many businesses consider the value of cultivating a socially-conscious business model, there are questions of how financially sustainable it is to dedicate resources and employee energy to doing good in the world. The short answer: it's very sustainable, if it's done right.

Some may argue that this is not a responsibility of businesses, but here at 10K60 we disagree. More and more, consumers expect businesses to be a force for social good — and companies are responding with innovations that benefit the environment and people in need. In fact, some of these ventures are not only sustainable from financial standpoints, but also yield a profit.

Corporate social responsibility: past, present, and future

Businesses can no longer do business as usual. The threat of a pandemic has changed how brands must operate on a fundamental level. With this new climate, businesses have a greater responsibility for the safety of their consumers than ever before. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has evolved to reflect this shift — and businesses have never been more responsible.

CSR today is a big deal: companies are focusing on diversity, inclusion, education, and the environment. Corporate social responsibility efforts — such as sustainable product sourcing, philanthropic endeavours, and socially-aware financial investments — are becoming recognised as a part of the core business model.

Let’s take a look at the world of CSR through its history, what it looks like today, and how that might change in the future;

Industrial Revolution and World War

The roots of corporate social responsibility can be traced back to the industrial revolution in the 1830s-1900s. During this time, rapid advances in technology and a wave of innovation displaced established social norms and behaviours.

The late 19th and early 20th century are often seen as a period of corporate irresponsibility. While this era did produce mass worker exploitation, unsafe working conditions, and excessive pollution, it also gave birth to a whole new breed of business leaders who were determined to make the world a better place.

Post-war: civil rights and sustainability

After World War II, corporations had to change their model. Workers unions were on the rise, and the threat of communism loomed over many countries. People generally were uneasy about the growing influence large businesses had on governments and societies around the world — and there was considerable pressure to start acting as a social force for good.

21st century

In the 21st century, a significant shift has occurred in the way businesses view their role in society. A growing body of research illustrates that a company's social and environmental impact, good or bad, is directly linked to its financial success. Today's customers tend to show greater loyalty to companies that do good in their community.

In 2013, the Indian government became the first in the world to require companies to report on their social and environmental impacts. Later that year, the European Union took a similar step, requiring many of its member states to produce annual reports outlining their social and environmental performance.

In 2019, 181 CEOs of some of the world’s wealthiest companies, including Apple, Amazon, and Citigroup, stated their intent to work in the best interests of customers, employees, and society — not just shareholders.

Using purpose to gain competitive advantage

Businesses that want to stand out from the crowd need to learn how to tell their unique selling points (USP) in an engaging, enticing way — one that captures the attention of target audiences and keeps them coming back for more. By focusing on what makes a business unique and how it can make customers' lives easier, clients can effectively convey their value proposition and appeal to potential clients.

When a purpose is infused into your brand, you're able to build a meaningful relationship with your customers. Something intangible but deeply significant happens: people start to care about you and what you stand for. Some of the advantages;

  • Product development - A clear sense of purpose can help companies build products that customers really need. If you want to create a product and solve real problems, start by defining the problem your company will try to solve. When you’re committed to a goal, you’ll work harder to achieve it — for example, Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone because his wife was deaf and he wanted to invent a device she could use.
  • Sales - If salespeople can demonstrate their purpose, potential customers will be more likely to trust them. First and foremost, they'll have a better understanding of what the brand can do for them. When trust is established, buying becomes easier. In order to show their purpose and value, salespeople need to go beyond basic product-centric messaging.
  • Marketing - When marketers speak to their audience with purpose, they are able to go deeper and connect on a deeper level than they have ever been able to before. Purpose-driven marketing is about the customer — it's honest, offers solutions, and doesn't sacrifice purpose for gains. Purpose-driven marketing speaks into the heart of the customer because it is about the customers. With the lens of purpose, marketers go deeper, and the messages themselves add value.

Getting social responsibility on to the agenda

It doesn't take a pandemic for businesses to become aware that they're part of society. Social responsibility is becoming a core value — and it's one that will define the most successful companies of the future. Here we'll take a look at the fundamental steps businesses should take to become a force for good;

  • Begin with leadership — studies have proven what leaders have long believed: that a company’s culture is one of the most important factors in maintaining both employee engagement and productivity levels. A happy, engaged workforce leads to happy customers, and happy customers lead to increased sales. That’s why companies are increasingly investing in improving employee engagement. Nothing breeds success more than the positive energy of a happy and productive workforce. Businesses can foster this kind of energy by giving employees an environment in which they feel supported, challenged, appreciated, and engaged.
  • Employee engagement — in today's world, employees expect more from their employers than ever before. Not only do they expect a good salary, but they also want to make a positive difference in the world. By implementing social initiatives that promote social good and use donations and volunteering to help employees connect with causes they are passionate about, businesses can enhance their company culture and help develop future stars of the organisation. A company’s support for a cause is far more effective when it’s supported by employees. Engaging employees in deciding what your company values allows you to make lasting changes, rather than the hit-and-run tactics that many startups favour. In order to get the most from your employees, give them a stake in your company’s future: let them be the ones who choose some of the causes you donate money and time to.
  • Develop a framework for social responsibility — to make doing good the norm, a business should give its workforce a framework for participating in social and environmental initiatives. They need to help them understand the impact of the company's work on society and build in opportunities for their employees to participate. This will help them feel more connected to their work and accomplish their missions.

Forefront of great change

Business leaders are at the forefront of great change. By putting purpose first and approaching profits as a by product, executives can lead their organisations to greater creativity and innovation. Businesses that balance social responsibility with financial goals are not only well-positioned to make a positive impact on the world, but also meet the needs of shareholders, investors, customers, and society at large.