How to Be a Socially Responsible Entrepreneur
What is social responsibility? As an entrepreneur, why should you bother with this and why should you try to limit any potentially negative impact of your business on society or the environment? Let us look at the importance of being a socially responsible entrepreneur and at practical tips to be one.
Social responsibility, corporate social responsibility and so on, are phrases often spoken of in serious tones. These are aspects of a business that companies must engage in and visibly be seen to engage in, feel many experts. But what exactly are these terms other than catch phrases and why should businesses engage in these activities other than for positive publicity and a vaguely warm and fuzzy feeling?
What is corporate social responsibility?
Like us humans, companies also function in the context of a society; not in a vacuum. Since we all derive sustenance and support from society at large, it is our responsibility to minimize the negative impacts of our activities on society and the environment and to act for the benefit of society as far as possible.
The idea is to follow not just the letter but the spirit of the law, to maintain ethical standards (even when not mandated by the law), and to create safe working environments. The idea is to maintain a healthy balance between profitability on the one hand and social/environmental welfare on the other.
Why should social responsibility matter?
According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, upholding your social responsibility as an entrepreneur makes good business sense. It also contributes to economic development while improving the quality of life of employees and the local community.
CSR initiatives are not a drain on resources; rather they can have several positive impacts. They help you win new business and retain existing customers, keep employees happy and productive, improve relationships with suppliers, customers, and networks, and help drive innovation within the organization. And here is where social responsibility initiatives help where it matters most – your bottom line: using sustainable business practices helps lower costs and gives you an edge over the competition.
Sustainable business practices help enhance your business reputation; that is free positive publicity, right there! In developing countries, this image enhancement is particularly important to argue some experts.
Tips to be a socially responsible entrepreneur
- Use sustainable business practices: Make a start with simple things, such as disposing of garbage in a responsible manner, reusing and recycling resources as much as you can. Use natural light when possible and switch to energy-efficient appliances.
- Consider harvesting rainwater and installing solar energy panels: If at all possible in your setup, this will lower electricity bills. Apart from the fact that this helps the business financially, solar panels look very cool, literally, to visitors upon your business premises!
- Ensure that you source your raw materials in a responsible manner: Do this by paying fair prices and ensuring that your supplier does not engage in exploitative practices to the extent possible.
- Consider sourcing your materials directly from farmers and artisans: This may require some extra work to begin with. However, this helps cut out the middleman and lowers your costs. You also derive satisfaction by ensuring that the hardworking but poorly paid people of the country are being paid fairly for a change. You can also advertise this fact!
- Involve employees: Try to create ethical consciousness in the workplace and foster an environment where employees are happy to contribute to these practices of their own volition and not because they are imposed upon them.
- Consider the kind of image you want your business to project: Give a thought to the kind of image you want associated with your company and then work towards it. You could choose to align yourself with underprivileged kids, work towards better facilities for the differently abled or seniors, or perhaps you may want to be seen to be a patron of medical research or a particular sport? Choose a cause that you as a person feel strongly about or something that dovetails with your business and product.
- Partner with an NGO to contribute to a worthy cause: You could work to raise awareness or help organize an event that raises funds for a cause that you can align your business to. This earns visibility and that warm, fuzzy feeling!
- Involve customers in this as well: Advertise some of your products as being for a worthy cause. Encourage buyers to buy products because some percentage of the proceeds will be contributed to that cause.