How to run a socially conscious business
5 August 2019: With purpose-driven millennials and Generation Z making up an increasingly large portion of consumers, there is a global trend towards “belief-driven buying”, whereby consumer behaviour is influenced by a brands’ standings on societal issues. As such, to remain relevant in this new era of conscious consumerism, South African businesses should consider taking a more socially conscious stance.
This is according to David Morobe, Executive General Manager: Impact Investment at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), one of Africa’s leading business risk financiers, who refers to the findings of the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study. “The study reveals that 64% of consumers across the world now buy on belief, a trend that is being led by millennials, of which 81 percent expect businesses to make public declarations of social good.”
Morobe offers the following insights into how business can align their businesses with this trend:
- Build social awareness into the foundation of the business
Simply having social responsibility initiatives that are separate from your main business is no longer sufficient. Social responsibility should be built into the DNA of the business, shaping values and the everyday decisions. An effective social awareness model should run through the business like a golden thread and should be built around authenticity, thinking local, promoting employee wellness and being transparent about setbacks the business has faced.
- Offer socially conscious products and services
This means business owners need to be conscious of where products are sourced from, as well as what the production process entails. It is better to source from reputable wholesalers who have been verified as having good environmental and employment standards. Once you have ensured that you can offer socially conscious products and services, share this information with consumers. A restaurant, for example, can include a map of where they source ingredients from on their menu. Today’s consumers love knowing where their chosen products and services come from.
- Contribute to your community or to society as a whole
A socially conscious company’s ultimate test is how much it contributes to society. It must provide value that brings good to people, particularly those who are most in need. Choose a cause – whether it is contributing to environmental sustainability or better quality of life for unskilled workers – and commit to making a measurable impact in that area.
- Hire employees who are looking for more than a paycheck
Millennials have not only redefined consumer habits, they have also redefined what a job should be. They are not merely looking for a transactional trade; but rather to work for businesses with which they can really connect. Get clear on your business values and hire employees who share those values and who will be committed to helping you achieve your socially conscious business vision.
- Partner with other likeminded businesses and organisations
By collaborating with other businesses, you can boost your consciousness clout. There is also the option to work with charitable organisations whose cause your business relates to. By teaming up with other businesses and charities, you can improve the economy and give back to the community your business operates in.
Most importantly, Morobe says that running a socially responsible business needs to be about wanting to be the change. “This requires a heightened sense of awareness, and unfortunately not all businesses have this. Every aspect of your business should be aligned to the cause, starting from leadership and running throughout your team down to the products and services you offer. As a business owner, this means wanting your business to bring about positive change to every one of your employees and to society as a whole,” he concludes.