As we have seen throughout our exploration of the intersection between business and social justice, it seems that businesses are increasingly getting involved with their communities, whether that be environment, social, or politics.
Some companies, however, do not see the connection between business and community. Thus, it begs the question: what is the role that businesses play in our communities? Do businesses have a responsibility to serve their communities positively?
The answer is yes. In the late 1970s, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) business model began to gain traction in the U.S. Corporate champions of CSR use it to connect business to society through the belief that companies function due to society, which, in turn, should motivate companies to give back to their community. More companies are turning to CSR models and programs in order to create a positive impact.
Companies do not operate in a vacuum; they affect the neighborhood and people around them, and this effect ripples out towards the rest of society. Thus, it is important that companies start to positively contribute to their communities in order to advance the necessary initiatives and uphold ethical standards. Businesses and communities can work in tandem, with social impact molding business practices and innovation driving healthy competition and collaboration.
How Do Communities Benefit Businesses?
Communities push companies to embody responsible values. They hold businesses accountable regarding issues in the social and environmental sphere. By pulling businesses out of the corporate sphere and into the perspective of the average consumer, companies will be better positioned to align with values rather than solely economic gain. When leaders in business engage in local community outreach or donate to large-scale campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter Network, they are fostering a sense of purpose within their own walls. By creating trust and involving employees in initiatives within their own communities, business leaders will be able to create strong employee networks and opportunities.
Engaging with society develops trust within communities and strengthens bonds between consumer and organization. When a company is genuinely looking to help their local community, they are giving back to their consumers time and effort, solidifying their relationships and building trust. Furthermore, corporate responsibility increases employee interest and retainment, which may even help a company financially. Net Impact’s “What Workers Want” reported that “45% of employees would take a 15% pay cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact.”
If businesses worked in a vacuum, there would be no metric to effectively measure their success and impact in society. Communities help businesses become influential by pushing them to set goals and carry them out. With social pressure, companies now have the responsibility to be transparent about their initiatives and donations. Consumers track where company funds are funneled, the different donation amounts, and even the intra-company work environment. Communities give businesses the opportunity to hold themselves to a higher standard.
How Do Businesses Benefit Communities?
Social pressure encourages companies to take a public stance. Even though a part of the incentive to speak up includes managing consumer data and brand loyalty, companies also use their voice to amplify important socio political issues. This past year has brought forward a number of business executives that have taken a stand against the culture of racism and hatred that Black Americans continue to experience. Many leaders are continuing to spread awareness of the harsh realities of police brutality and the prison system through their messaging, as well as their actions. Consumers are demanding that companies use their platform in order to give back.
Socially in-tune companies bring in engaged employees, who perform well both inside and outside of the workplace. Companies can develop a welcoming work environment through community outreach, which can engage a number of employees. Not only does this affect the company and the local community, it will also affect the economy and various markets in the long run. According to MovingWorlds Institute, Microsoft employee volunteers participating in the MySkills4Africa program were able to “make an impact while better understanding some of their growing market segments” by aiding in startup educational initiatives.
By donating to national organizations or volunteering at local ones, businesses can use their surplus of resources to advance important social causes that need reform. This will energize the community, both local and national, and bring more awareness to emergent societal issues. Companies can use the power of the purse in order to provide activists and organizations with the tools they need to actively combat sociopolitical issues.
The 2015 annual Edelman Trust Barometer Global study reports that over half of the consumers surveyed believe that business innovation is propagated by greed instead of genuinely improving quality of life. Building trust with a consumer base is critical to developing new business initiatives and the best way for any given company to build that trust is to take responsibility and get involved with society.
When more companies start associating business and community and practicing Corporate Social Responsibility, they will also begin to reap the benefits of a value-driven mission. By setting goals and putting strategies in place, employee networks will be stronger, internal policies will be clear and well-articulated, and the company will be able to make a strong impact. Consumers want to buy from businesses that have a good ethics system and strong values, and businesses should want to improve their consumers’ lives and strive for a better future.
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Horoszowski, Mark. (2015) “7 Research-Backed Reasons Your Business Needs to be Socially Responsible.” MovingWorlds Institute. Retrieved from https://blog.movingworlds.org/7-research-backed-reasons-your-business-needs-to-be-socially-responsible/
Doerr, Patsy. (2019) “Four Ways Social Impact Will Affect Businesses In 2019.” Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/patsydoerr/2019/01/14/four-ways-social-impact-will-affect-businesses-in-2019/#d6d38436e711
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