A successful business does more than just create and supply consumers with the products and services they need. Businesses can also impact the economy, the environment, and various social causes. With all the revenue these organizations create, whether small or large sums, they can have a real effect on the lives of those in their communities and beyond.
Many executives support this belief, too. Research shows that business leaders are looking for new ways to make a positive impact by creating companies that are focused on both profit and social change.
If you are looking to communicate to your customers, employees, and investors that your company is dedicated to corporate social responsibility, consider creating a social mission for your business.
What is a Social Mission?
A social mission can be defined as a cause that can benefit society, the economy, or the environment in some way. By having an established social mission, your business can then send a direct message to customers, employees, and others invested about the values that drive your business while having a concrete positive impact. It should be embedded in your organization as a core belief and become apparent in several ways, including donations, production, advocacy, etc.
Taking the time to learn, and invest in a social mission that is meaningful to you and those around you, can strengthen your business as a whole.
How Can a Social Mission Benefit Your Business?
As business executive Niall FitzGerald said, “Corporate social responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it… because it is good for our business.” It should come as no surprise that a social mission can bring your business a handful of benefits.
For example, it can help bolster your marketing strategy by incentivizing people to support your company. Customers will feel as though they are making a difference when they buy your products, and employees will know that their hard work is going towards a good cause. By having established values, you can see a direct influence in sales your company makes because consumers are going to feel good by supporting you. According to a Cone Communications CSR study, 87% of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.
You can also expect to see work become more meaningful to your employees, therefore resulting in happier employees who are more invested in their work and are less likely to turnover. When individuals come together to work towards a common goal that benefits the greater good, positive results will follow.
Additionally, a social mission dedicated specifically to your neighbors can truly benefit all parties involved. A locally designated social mission supports your own city or town by encouraging community development and creating a safer, more sustainable area. Investing in your own community gives back to those that first supported you and your organization and helps share the wealth of success to those closest to you. As entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith said, “When you think about your community how do you love your community? You share in the bounty with that community.”
How Do You Choose a Focus?
Once you have decided that a social mission is something you and your business are interested in pursuing, it is time to understand the best way to go about developing your idea.
First, find one that fits your company’s core values. Do you have any initiatives already in place that you can expand upon? For example, if your office is environmentally-friendly, you could dig deeper and look for other opportunities where your business could support eco-efforts outside of your own building. Perhaps you could donate a certain portion of your profits to national conservation groups, and encourage employees to volunteer in local cleanups. Alternatively, if you’re committed to diverse hiring practices, maybe you could create an in-house charity that focuses on supporting local, low-income schools and internship programs. Whichever focus you decide to take, you should let the existing interests and core beliefs of the organization guide your decision.
However, don’t limit yourself to niche causes— instead, find one that will have a broader impact. The larger the concept, the more variety you’ll have in finding ways to have an impact and to get your employees involved.
Then, consider the environmental impact, local involvement, or economic necessities. At what scale can you donate your resources and time? What does your local community care about? Would they support your mission? Be sure to think about these small details so you’ll have as much support as possible, and you’ll be able to maintain the mission. Ultimately, you should take the time to do some inventory and allocate your resources properly. By devoting the proper amount of time towards developing your idea, it will then be easier to implement and follow through with your mission’s goals.
Lastly, remember to stay away from political agendas. By aligning yourself with one party, you will likely alienate quite a few employees and community members and lower your support base. Choose a mission that will stand the test of time and is based above political lines.
Finally, take into consideration that your social mission should answer the following questions: “What will I do?” “How will I do it?” “Who am I doing it for?” and “What value can I provide?” The answers to these questions will guide and define your social mission as a whole.
How Do You Incorporate a Social Mission Into Your Business?
1: Create goals. Once you have defined which mission will work best for your business, you need to create an actionable, goal-focused plan to make a real impact. How will you measure success? How will you be looking to impact your mission? Approach this with a business mind in order to develop a social mission that will see real results.
2: Communicate the mission. This means to your employees, your partners or investors, your customers, and your community. You want as much support as you can get from the start. Internally, build it into your recruiting materials and onboarding experience, and share it with all employees in a company-wide communication. This will help answer questions and encourage support.
3: Make a plan for consistency. If you’re committing to this mission, you must feel confident in your ability to consistently deliver. Whether you’re donating money and need to develop a budget or are planning to have employees volunteer and must create a schedule of hours, you have to create a plan to ensure long-term success.
4: Make it part of your brand. Your social mission can have a positive impact on your marketing efforts, so be sure to promote it and make your brand synonymous with your cause. Build out a page on your website dedicated to your mission, share it on social media, and create press releases for local coverage.
5: Network with other supporters. You’ll be able to have a larger impact on your cause if you band with others and share ideas. This will also help both of your brands earn more visibility for your work. Attend meetings and join different support groups online so you can meet other, like-minded business owners.
6: Get your executives involved. It’s important that your C-suite gets involved in the action visibly. This will encourage your employees to join in on the work and will attract attention to the cause.
7: Consider getting certified. There are several types of certifications, such as B Corp, that help legitimize a company’s efforts as consistent and impactful and help showcase that the social mission isn’t simply a marketing ploy. There are certifications in several focus areas, such as environmental and humanitarian work, so do some research into which best suits your needs!
What Do Social Missions Look Like in Action?
There are several hugely successful companies that are known for their social impacts. They are clear examples of using your production and customer base’s interests to create an impact and a brand involved in action.
For example, Ben & Jerry’s has a few different social missions, ranging from humanitarian work to climate change advocacy, supporting fair trade, racial justice, climate action, and LGBTQIA+ equality. They’ve worked this mission into their production line and thought leadership so the brand is thoroughly connected to advocacy.
TOMS is another brand that’s become synonymous with social advocacy and sustainability. Their shoes are made with environmentally-friendly materials, they donate one pair for every one bought, and they’ve actively supported equality in employment practices.
Levi’s is more specific in their approach, focusing their efforts on water conservation, sharing educational resources on water scarcity and reducing the amount of water waste that goes into their production. However, they make sure to connect this mission to their product, showing how other jean producers waste water, which helps make their cause relevant to their business.
These brands not only have a strong, consistent, and relevant mission, but they also hit on every previously mentioned aspect of incorporating that mission into their businesses. Each mission is based on a goal, whether it’s to make every product fair trade, or to donate $1 billion to various environmental causes. All three do a great job of communicating the message and connecting it to their brand, with dedicated pages on their site that are easy to find and regular posts on social media about their work. Some have also partnered with celebrities or nonprofit workers who are passionate about the same causes to spread their message farther, and all have publicized news about their executives getting involved in the action.
It’s important to use examples like these to model your own social responsibility practices after so you can get a better understanding of how it will look.
When incorporated and researched thoroughly, social missions and social responsibility programs can make a large impact and become an integral part of your business. Reflect on your organization’s values, get your network excited about the work, set realistic goals, and spread the word in order to see success. Soon enough, you’ll be able to see tangible benefits for your business, as well as the real change that you can make on your local community and the world. After all, as Executive Team Leader at Shell Jeroen van der Veer said, “In my view, the successful companies of the future will be those that integrate business and employees’ personal values.”