This post was written by Esther Luk, an associate here at Jump. You can get in touch with her by commenting on this post.
Whether we’re talking about a startup with 10 employees or a multinational corporation with offices all around the world, one thing is hard to deny: nearly all companies have unique resources at their disposal to set the stage for their mission and create a positive impact on the world.
The best forms of corporate responsibility are those that leverage what your company is best at. By finding out what you’re best at, you can look for causes that align with those strengths and find a way to make a greater impact than simply volunteering in off hours or packing boxes with school supplies. It’s up to you to decide what purpose you seek to impact, how much you should invest, and what workstream you’ll use to realize that purpose.
You can leverage what your company is best at by adapting your social impact strategy to what’s relevant for your business. Here are a few steps for figuring out a cause that you can get behind:
1. Envision: What does your dream world look like? How can you and your company play a part in making this happen?
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has always had a vision for a different kind of company, not just a different kind of coffee. He hoped to bring the feeling of connection felt in Italian coffee shops to the States. The mission statement of Starbucks is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Over the years, Starbucks has achieved this vision through strategic investments, like providing market-leading benefits for part-time employees.
The company will soon provide a free online education to thousands of its workers (without requiring that they remain with the company long-term). The company has always been fairly unique in its approach to its employees, but this effort goes above and beyond. With it, Starbucks is leveraging its resources to build a more robust, educated workforce—something that, despite a few potential downsides, is to be admired.
2. Articulate: What kind of headline would be ideal for your business? Outside of your business itself, what do you want to be known for?
In 2010, Unilever made a public commitment to double profits and halve its environmental footprint by 2020. The company decided that a durable, sustainable business model would be one that factored in the externalities of doing business. It examined the broader trends affecting resource depletion and decided that it had a powerful role in counteracting them.
3. Reflect: Find your competitive advantage—what types of competencies, resources, and capabilities can your company do better than other companies in a week, month, or year?
Always—a feminine product brand produced by P&G—leverages the marketing powerhouse of the consumer packaged goods multi-national to create new conversations in cause marketing. A recent Always commercial demonstrated and confronted the stigmatic phrase of acting “like a girl.” The video went viral—it racked up 31 million views in a week—and while it’s unclear exactly how many people the commercial has impacted (or will impact), it’s at least gotten people thinking about a phrase many forget has profound ripple effects. Always is starting an important conversation that matters.
4. Diagnose: What are the obstacles that keep your company from being able to achieve your vision?
Google recently launched a $50 million initiative to teach young girls how to code. Their new website, Made With Code (which launched a few weeks ago), is the result of long-term research by Google to determine why girls are opting out of learning to code.
Finding that most girls decide long before college whether or not they’ll want to learn to code, Made With Code aims to help impact that decision early on, and ultimately bring more women into the tech workforce. Once again, this project leverages many of Google’s strengths and could potentially have a global impact in the next five, ten, and twenty years. It could also funnel back to Google in increasing their potential workforce.
5. Enroll Allies: Who are the primary and secondary stakeholders in this initiative? Who do you need buy-in from? How will you keep momentum going, and what support systems do you have in place for when the inevitable hiccups arise?
Whole Foods encourages its employees to “upcycle” old materials, repurposing them into new value. In so doing, the company enrolls stakeholders across store departments and regions to participate in its sustainability initiatives. This helps the company continue to reduce waste, promote local relationships, and attract diverse allies that will propel its corporate responsibility programs.
6. Make the Leap: What’s the immediate next step you can take to move onto the pathway towards realizing your vision? What’s a follow-up action assuming success and failure?
Always realized the influence its advertising could have and used that to further a positive cause. Google’s Made With Code is based heavily off of Google’s core competencies. And Starbucks, having already taken great strides in providing a positive employee experience, pushed above and beyond with its employee education program. All great immediate steps towards realizing several very different visions.
Every organization has the ability to link their current workstream to a bold, long-term view. What’s really exciting is that corporate social responsibility can go hand-in-hand with positive business impact, whether you’re a feminine pads company or Starbucks.
photo credit: PG.NETO via photopin cc