How your business can help the world.

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Ok so what does business facilitate unintentionally, every day that can assist in breaking down barriers, prejudices, discrimination etc in one swift swoop…they bring PEOPLE, all kinds of crazy, different people together! Admittedly the intention isn’t initially to get everyone to hold hands and appreciate their various differences but it certainly ends up that way. You see in our common quest to make money, we end up fostering relationships with everyone and anyone because money doesn’t care about gender, sexual orientation, faith or race and that’s THAT. Anyone can make it.

Manufacturers and suppliers are all over the world, we drop an email to China, New York or London with a click. If there is a big event in our industry, we doll ourselves up and go and meet the cool kids with eager hand shakes and smiles of “give me your business“. In business, we don’t care whether your hand is black or white, if you are paying we will shake it and if you are talented we will hold it. Take McDonalds for example, there is a restaurant in pretty much every country with an airport. I’ll never forget the joy of seeing those golden arches after almost 3 months of eating spicy food (delicious as it was) for breakfast, lunch and dinner in beautiful India. I ate three McChicken sandwiches in one go at a familiar table, in a familiar decor and with a familiar service, nevertheless they also had masala fries and tandoori nuggets; amazing. McDonalds know that DIVERSITY and CULTURE is good for business.

Even the legal industry in the UK has recognised this. Traditionally pale, stale and male with degrees from Oxbridge only, the English legal profession is now more diverse than ever. In fact, globally, major law firms are continuously expanding all over the world, recruiting from oversees and right round the corner. Just go on to the website of Clifford Chance, Norton Rose Fulbright or Linklaters and have fun clicking on the sites of their many global offices. Even the ordinary pop star knows that culture and diversity pay, if you ever meet Beyonce, ask her where she HASN’T performed or Justin Bieber how many endorsements he has done in Japan! Ok you get it, but how does this HELP?

You see, in recognising that diversity and cultural awareness is good for business you help the world to stay connected and to integrate. Entrepreneurs, businesses and startups are key tools in building a community of human beings and not a community of “us and them” which politicians love to exploit. Imagine how much more we can achieve if we actively encouraged diversity and it wasn’t just a by product money making. If you own a restaurant and your beef suppliers are a farm in Scotland, a work trip to Scotland could really encourage relationships and mutual understanding. Or if you manufacture your clothes in China, going over and seeing with your own eyes, the place where your stock begins could encourage your Chinese team and also enlighten you to improving conditions for workers over there (this is an issue for another post on another blog). I’m sure this can all be put more elegantly but you get the gist right. I did a post on Corporate Responsibility which touched upon this BUT this post isn’t about your branding or your promotion its about YOU consciously making your company an educator to its employees and a friend to its customers; that’s how your business can help the world.

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Let’s talk about Corporate Responsibility…

animals helping each other

Corporate Responsibility (CR) aka Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) aka environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is essentially the concept that a business should both self-regulate itself (PROVE that you are reputable and worthy of investment) and benefit its community (GIVE back or JUST GIVE to the local/global community).  CR is a BIG deal. Don’t believe me? Just check out the website of the major players in any industry and you’ll find a whole glossy section dedicated to that company’s CR policy. It seems that it is NO LONGER enough to sell a good product or provide a good service. Clients, investors and employees EXPECT to see your business’s CONSCIENCE.

So how did CR come about?

CR was arguably cultivated in response to scandalous corporate practices and errors such as environmental accidents (BP oil spill), corruption (Enron – fraud, Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong Foundation – doping) or accusations of child labour in supply chains (H&M, Nike and Walmart). It appears more and more now that a company’s long-term financial SUCCESS goes hand in hand with its RECORD on social responsibility, environmental stewardship and corporate ethics. The Companies Act 2006 added to those pressures by requiring directors of UK companies to have regard to community and environmental issues when considering their duty to promote the success of their company. CR doesn’t stop at companies either, last year the UK government issued a consultation paper inviting the public to help it improve its CR policy!

What does CR involve?

Well this is highly dependent on the nature of your business. The important thing about CR is that it should be sustainable and therefore it should emanate naturally from the industry within which your business operates. For example:

  • if you are in the food industry you can demonstrate CR by sourcing your ingredients from fair trade farms, cooking meals for local hostels and going GREEN (reducing waste and recycling);
  • If you are in the fashion industry you can make a point of using ethically sourced materials and er… no child labour or labourers that are paid a fair wage;
  • If you are in the tech industry (gaming, social media etc.) you can hook up with local schools and teach kids how to code (coding is the future) or team up with a charity that aims to get computers in schools; and
  • If you are in the life coaching industry you can set up a mentoring programme for young professionals or ex-convicts.

There is so much that you can do! There isn’t a limit and there isn’t a checklist. Your business can decide.

What are the benefits of CR?

Well truth be told, it’s publicity, GOOD publicity for your business. It encourages trust from future clients/customers and also investors. However it also makes YOU and YOUR business a lot happier mentally and even financially.

Let’s look at a real example from a heavy weight. Google Green is a corporate effort to use resources efficiently and support renewable power. However recycling and turning off the lights does more for Google than lower costs. Google has seen an overall drop in power requirements for their data centres by an average of 50 percent resulting in savings that can then be redirected to other areas of the business or to investors.

Here’s another example from a familiar business. SurveyMonkey is best known for its easy-to-use survey creation software, but the company’s nationwide survey service, Audience, was created as a way to give back to deserving causes across the country. Instead of offering cash and prizes to survey takers, SurveyMonkey donates 50 cents per survey completion to the taker’s charity of choice. In 2013, the company donated more than $1 million to organisations such as the Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Teach for America.

To summarise, maintaining a comprehensive CR policy for your business, however small, can encourage the following:

  • Win new business;
  • Increase customer retention;
  • Develop and enhance relationships with customers, suppliers and networks;
  • Attract, retain and maintain a happy workforce making you an Employer of Choice;
  • Save money on energy and operating costs;
  • Manage risk;
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors;
  • Generate innovation and enhance your influence;
  • Improve your business reputation;
  • Provide access to investment and funding opportunities; and
  • Generate positive publicity and media opportunities due to media interest in ethical business activities.

So there you have it, CR. Go and get started and remember that CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME – start from your employees – are you training them? Are they empowered? Then expand to your local community in which your business operates – do you have a presence? Are you helping?

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