How To Make Corporate Responsibility A Driver In Your Business

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Larry Myler
Forbes

Every year, Forbes releases a list of big companies in which corporate social responsibility reigns supreme. Given the current political climate, people are paying more and more attention to this list and others like it. Corporate responsibility is becoming a larger factor in B2B and B2C purchase decisions. There is also a growing interest in the stories behind these lists. Here are a few such stories.

As clothing designer Eileen Fisher says, “We don’t want sustainability to be our edge. We want it to be universal.” Her company’s vision and its Behind the Label transparency work is “for an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run.”

According to the Government & Accountability Institute and its analysis of the S&P 500 Index, “Sustainability reporting rose from just 20% of the companies reporting in 2011 to 81% in 2015.” This report offers just a glimpse of how much importance corporations have placed on sustainability management, measurement and reporting.

Another interesting trend worth noting, especially on the hot topic of Millennials and their decision-making in regard to both consumption and employment, is their desire to be involved in socially responsible initiatives. According to a study by Cone Communications, an astonishing nine out of ten Millennials would switch products or services to an organization that supports a particular cause. It is expected that Gen Z will be even more supportive.

It’s not just big companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Nike and Coca-Cola that are leading the way to greater social responsibility. In fact, it’s companies and brands of every sector, industry and size. Even more so, it’s not just B2C companies that are looking to activate more social responsibility initiatives, but B2B companies as well.

Some companies have had green practices built into their brand from inception. For example, the Farmers Restaurant Group runs a growing number of restaurants based in the nation’s capital, including its flagship Founding Farmers. Majority-owned by more than 42,000 family farmers (who become the B2B suppliers to the B2C restaurant chain), this group says it's in it for the long haul, and wants to help pave the way for others in that market.

“Our concern for the environment has always been paramount, and our talents and abilities to deliver on our vision are increasing as we grow,” says owner Dan Simons. “We are family-farmer-centric, people-centric, and these principles guide all of our decisions. Our menus emphasize food that is connected to people and the earth. Our sources are primarily family farms, and we make the vast majority of our food from scratch and in-house.”

The company even supports honey-bee research at George Washington University, which led to work with a nonprofit group that hopes to educate children about the environmental importance of these crucial pollinators. It’s a business model that works, producing overall ROI ranging from 11% to 33% annually per location.

This speaks directly to what companies and brands all over the world are now realizing needs to be set as a priority. According to B2B News Network, a perfect example of social responsibility happening specifically within the B2B landscape is with wireless solutions provider Baka Communications’ partnering with urban farmers Fresh City. Last year, Baka donated land to Fresh City in order for the urban farmers to build and maintain a vegetable greenhouse, totaling 4,000 square feet. According to the news story, Baka CEO John Marrion stated, “Companies want companies that have a great reputation. If I have a choice, I’d rather deal with a company that’s got a better report card on social responsibility.”

This raises an interesting point about the ROI of socially responsible company initiatives, especially in the world of business-to-business. After all, the person you are selling to within a company is, in some sense, a consumer as well. Consumers are the ones making the purchasing decisions.

The time is now for companies to work hard at becoming leaders in social responsibility. Not simply because the world is asking for it, and not just because it can improve sales. We may be moving into a time when it will make a bigger difference than ever—for all of us.

This article was written by Larry Myler from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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