Socially conscious companies: Encouraging entrepreneurs +
What does it mean to be ‘socially responsible’? It’s the buzz word that has been hanging in the air of the business community, gathering traction with those who wish to market themselves as a value-driven business. If you’re a business that believes their bottom line doesn’t end with profit, but incorporates people and the planet too, then you are already taking the right steps to being socially responsible. Corporate Social Responsibility is the act of any company committed to behaving ethically. Contributing to the growth of economic development whilst improving the quality of life of their employees, their families and the local community and society at large.
Karen Darby, founder of CrowdMission, wrote in the Guardian Social Enterprise Network how “there's a change coming now through social entrepreneurship. I think currently people have an early appetite to get involved and so the sector is progressing positively. Over the years […] I've seen many more young people […] who are wanting to start up their own businesses which also have a social purpose at the core. This is something I've seen growing in the last decade.”
The rise of the socially conscious business has a correlation to the number of entrepreneurs building businesses. What this means is that those businesses are now silo-ing their focus on raising capital and building revenue with solving social problems. Being a credible business has always been an important thing for consumers, but it is becoming increasingly more significant for decision making. The focus on doing good is almost a requirement, with the question “does your business give back?” on every consumers lips. It could be argued that starting a business is a hard task on its own, without factoring in the added feat of creating a venture that is also focused on being socially rewarding. For many, the draw to become a social entrepreneur is the opportunity to combine their passion with their business prowess. It’s the opportunity to experience and pursue something more than solely profit-driven progression.
Fundamentally it is about meeting the needs of the present, without jeopardising the future – ergo, ensuring you are sustainable. A new business that focuses on their economic, social and environmental responsibilities to reach a new “triple bottom line”. To really understand what it means to be sustainable is quite difficult. According to recent research by IMPACT, although there is strong awareness of sustainability issues it doesn’t always result in companies becoming more active for change. Everyone wishes they can do good, but does the desirable really equate to a worthwhile business model?
Looking to start your own socially conscious business?
If you’re keen to begin your business on the right footing, but aren’t quite sure where to start, here are a few things to consider.
1. What’s the big idea? Your business doesn’t need to be focused solely around green business opportunities – but you do need to decide if your idea is best suited as a for-profit or non-profit business? Aspiring entrepreneurs that are seeking to make social impact with their business will need to consider whether their ideas work under one model, or both?
2. Put pen to paper: Is your business plan in check? Before jumping into this market, have you tested to see if your business idea is strongly viable? Whilst you might have the purpose to deliver what you propose, with good intentions – does it hold the promise?
3. The greater good: Now that you’ve decided on your proposal from a business perspective, it’s important to keep in mind how you are going to measure your social impact. What are your intentions and are they quantifiable along with any profit you make?
4. Brand reputation: Clarity is key in order to obtain and retain consumer trust. Detail what your project needs to be prove, what you want to do, plans for your profits how you intend to make an impact and how you will achieve these results.
5. Money vs impact: By now you will have made up your mind as to whether you’re opting to build a for-profit or non-profit business. If you have chosen to start a non-profit venture, you’ll need to keep track of your finances. Whether that be securing funding or allocating business outgoings – you’ll need to balance this with your social value. This should be taken into consideration as early as possible, ensuring the two operate in harmony.
6. The definition of success: Just to forewarn you, challenges lay ahead. Starting a business isn’t easy, however for social entrepreneurs there are more things to take into consideration. How you define success is not reliant on income and return on investment alone. It’s dependent on the ability to measure social impact and communicating this effectively with your consumers and investors.
Finally, although it is an obvious statement, it really does pay to be passionate about what you’re doing. It helps to be inspired by something enough to want to turn it in to a social mission. That will be the driving force behind making your venture succeed as a business. Its authenticity is reliant on your passion and turning that into a long-term success. There are many benefits to putting your business prowess to good use. Entrepreneurs with the understanding of how to turn a solid business plan into an investable, marketable business along with the appropriate purpose at the forefront have the ability to make a difference. It’s all about striking the right balance.
Goodman, winners of the 2013 OAS Development Award for Sustainable Achievement, is committed to creating thriving business communities and sustainable developments within their business park properties. By taking into consideration office location, environment and transport links they provide each of their clients with business space solutions that’s suitable to them.