Do you feel like you are powerless to change the world — when you can see the world needs changing? As a freelancer, entrepreneur or small business owner, are you giving back? Whether it’s fundraising for a worthy cause, donating your product to those in need, or campaigning for marginalized voices in your community, any business can make a positive impact.
But how do you make room for philanthropy when you’re focused on core operations and survival?
There are many small ways you can adapt your working practices for good, and we don’t just mean charitable handouts or giving up resources. At the same time, while being ‘socially responsible’ is a marketing strategy, we’re not advocating empty gestures here. Let’s look at some practical and inspiring ideas for how you can change the world with the decisions you make as a business owner.
What’s a ‘For Good’ Business?
When we talk about ‘for good’ businesses, we mean those that focus on social responsibility as well as their bottom line. This might mean demonstrating a concern for the environment or developing their local community. It might also mean they engage in actions such as ethical sourcing, championing employee rights, supporting a charity through fundraisers, or volunteering for local organizations.
Businesses can generate positive outcomes while being ‘for profit’. And it’s not just big corporations like Starbucks and Toms driving the agenda. Freelancers, self-employed, small and medium-sized enterprises have been at the forefront of social responsibility for decades.
In fact, smaller businesses make a valuable social and environmental impact. In many countries, small businesses play a key role in the economy and represent the bulk of businesses in number. They don’t broadcast their efforts and seemingly do them for altruistic reasons, not for the business advantages—of which there are many.
How Being Socially Responsible Helps Your Business
Many people choose to do business with companies that give back in a meaningful way and demonstrate strong commitments to social justice, the environment, or their community. PR Newswire released a summary of Fleishman Hillard’s Authenticity Gap study. After reviewing six global markets across more than 30 industries, they found consumers expect businesses to take a stand on issues they create, impact directly or control. So whether you’re a one-man-band or have employees, your business has much to gain from developing for good practices.
7 Ways to Become a For-Good Business
Most people assume you have to be a big company to be in a position to help others. Indeed, resources are more limited when you don’t have the backing of investors and a sizeable profit margin. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you—even the smallest business can bring about positive change for their employees, community and the wider public.
Here are seven examples of how your company can impact social change:
1. Make Ethical Partnerships
A true ‘for good’ business concerns itself with their wider ethical responsibilities. For example, do your products have environmental and safety hazards, like e-cigarettes? Is your beauty salon using products harmful to animals? If so, choose suppliers and distributors that also commit to responsible employment, ethical, and sustainable environmental practices.
These days partnering with organizations with questionable products or practices can be damaging to your brand image and work against the benefit of the most vulnerable members of society, worldwide.
Further reading: Supply and demand: Do you have an ethical supply chain?
2. Improve Your Business from the Inside Out
An ethical business culture places a high value on employee rights, equal pay, and fairness, while also discouraging things like discrimination and dishonesty. Adopt an office culture based on integrity and respect for all individuals. Think about how you can contribute to your employee’s work-life balance. This could mean offering flexible schedules, work part-time work or remotely so they can stay on top of their personal responsibilities.
Promote workforce diversity to provide a satisfying work environment that values everyone’s contributions. Foster positive company values such as enforcing a genuinely diverse workforce. People like to see companies make a real commitment to diversity and equality. It could mean creating a safe place for women to work without harassment, to being safe to be out as transgender or non-binary and to have a no-tolerance policy towards harassment and discrimination of all forms. Once you have established ethics policies, make sure employees are aware of and comply with them.
3. Partner with Local Initiatives
Getting involved in local initiatives is an excellent opportunity to build a stronger community. Here are some of the ways small businesses are doing it:
- Sponsor fundraising events by donating. Many community organizations hold fundraisers, supporting everything from local charitable initiatives to school sports teams. These projects often need products to sell to raise money, somewhere to hold the fundraiser of both. If you have a location fit an event, merchandise or food to donate, all of these things can help. If you are a retailer, you could provide them with products for free or at a reduced price.
- Volunteer to participate in events or activities benefiting local community organizations. If you’ve got a team, give them time off from work to participate.
If you’re stuck for ideas, get involved with a cause that aligns with the nature of the business. For example, If you sell groceries, you could sponsor a community garden and encourage that some of the harvests be donated to local food ministries. You could even begin your own initiative, for example, a gift shop or stationers could host an RSVP gift-wrapping party serving low-income residents.
Whether your business sponsors, donates to or volunteers at a local organization, you’ll make a difference in your community, and gain a reputation for giving back.
4. Lead by Example
Start a revolution of philanthropy. You can go your own way and find opportunities to make a difference. Look at what your customers and your community need. Here’s an example. The SAME Cafe in Colorado asks customers to pay what they can afford. Their website tagline reads “everyone, regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity.”). The JBL Soul Kitchen operates in much the same way. They’ve no cash register, just a donation box. Just like the SAME Cafe, identify a need, or an injustice you would like to fix. Then find a simple way to help.
5. Work with a Suitable Charity
Before you dive into ways to be a good business, it’s important to stop and think about the values that are most important to you. Then it will be easier to pick a cause that is truly meaningful to the company, an initiative that closely aligns with your values or one that truly gets you and your team excited. Do this, and you’ll make a difference while staying authentic and true to yourself. For instance, since 2011 Namecheap has made significant donations to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), because we believe in freedom, privacy and equal treatment to all Internet users.
When you have selected a charity, find ways to get involved. Think creatively. Your charitable activities might involve rallying and organizing your employees, customers, and even other community members to support the cause. For example, you may form a team of employees and customers for a sponsored charity walk. If you’re a personal trainer, you might offer a free session to prepare someone for a triathlon organized to raise money for a local organization.
You might want to talk with a charitable organization about ways you could help year-round. Nonprofit leaders should be happy to talk with potential donors and should be especially interested in building relationships with local businesses. Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance provide a tremendous amount of information about nonprofits.
Further reading: How to decide which charity your small business should support
6. Donate Your Time or Resources
Philanthropic business owners often donate products or services. For example, Namecheap, we offer privacy protection service WhoisGuard for free. That’s our way of protecting you from identity theft and potential spam. Cafes, supermarkets, and restaurants take food leftovers at the end of the day to local shelters. Or donate surplus products to those in need via food banks or community pantries. When you begin thinking about what your business can donation, don’t limit yourself to simply writing a check. Donating time or resources will show your expertise and the human face of your business at the same time.
The golden rule is simple: Give whatever it is that you’re good at.
This might mean using a specific set of skills to engage with local projects:
- A local hairdresser might offer haircuts for the homeless once a month for example
- Getting involved in voluntary events like a clean up in your local park or beach
- A building firm might give free labor and materials to community projects
- Similarly, volunteer time and services. A lawyer can go pro bono, offering complimentary professional advice or sit on a board free of charge to provide help to their community
7. Stop Doing Harm
What’s good for the globe is good for business. Most businesses could find several practices or habits in their operations that do harm, on some level, to the environment or to their community. Take a close look and do your best to eliminate them. For example, does your business generate a lot of paper waste? How could you reduce this waste or recycle what you’re throwing away? What could you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
Choose small but impactful initiatives. Here are a few examples.
- Going paperless can have a huge environmental impact by cutting your carbon footprint
- Implement composting facilities
- Select sustainable products to use in your business
- Get involved in carbon offsetting initiatives
- If your business sells a product, the use of reusable shopping totes could be encouraged
- Recycling is easy and very achievable for the average workplace, so offer employees and visitors easy access to recycling bins. The same goes for industrial waste such as cardboard and motor oil
- Use renewable energy and energy-saving devices
- Look at the manufacturing process and eliminate any practices that exploit natural resources or pollute the environment
Taking steps to become sustainable means future-proofing your business by minimizing social and impacts and ensuring financial stability. It’s no secret that sustainability initiatives take time and money to implement.
Keep in mind that customers will pay more when ‘for good’ practices are adopted. According to a report by The Software Advice, for a $100 product, “customers were willing to pay an average of $27 more if it were made under good working conditions. $19.50 more if the production’s carbon emissions were offset. $18.50 more if the raw materials were ethically sourced.”
Further reading: How to reduce doing harm in the workplace
Celebrate Your Good Work
If you vow to support a cause, make a point to keep followers, customers, and employees updated on your major moves. In other words, give them something to cheer about!
Here are some suggestions on how to do that:
- Promote your causes, events and activities on the business’s website, blog and social media pages. Include this information in your marketing messages as well. For example, a cosmetics company might state in a newsletter for pet owners that it does not test on animals.
- Feature a tab on your website that proudly promotes your ethical, charitable or social contributions or causes.
- Express your commitment to whatever causes you align with, in your brand statement. This way, you’ll position your efforts as a fundamental value of your business.
Developing ‘for good’ tendencies is not only beneficial for your business survival, but it’s also good for your soul. Adopting just one of these tips is a step in the direction to becoming the change we all wish to see.
Does your business have any ‘for good’ initiatives? If so, how are they working out? If you’d like to start, which steps could you take to get started?