How to Be a Socially Conscious Business Owner: 3 Ways to Walk the Talk
With every social justice movement, businesses experience public outcries to pledge support for the movement and take action to promote change. As a result, many businesses run to social media to issue statements of support, while others fear that taking a stance may result in a loss of customers and revenue. While it is a valid concern of business owners that people will decline to do business with their company if they hold conflicting views, most consumers want to see that businesses care about their lives and needs.
Results from a 2017 Cone Communications study on corporate social responsibility showed that the majority of consumers surveyed wanted companies to address social justice issues, and would be willing to buy a product or service based on a company’s advocacy. While these results indicate that it may be more beneficial for businesses to speak up, businesses must also be aware that customers will notice if words do not align with actions. Business owners can talk the talk AND walk the walk by following these 3 tips:
Put values into action
People are likely to return to businesses that stand with them and care about the same issues. Almost every business has a mission statement defining their overall goals and values that align with the needs and values of their consumer base. Therefore, businesses should take the time to research and understand the causes that their target audience cares about, and assess whether their business values align with the cause. Businesses can put their values into action by partnering with organizations and non-profits that promote social justice and offering their services or products to support the cause.
Assess organizational structures
Businesses can be socially conscious even if they do not explicitly align with a specific cause or movement. For example, companies can promote empathy and respect for diversity at all levels, provide more opportunities for junior employees to contribute to meetings, and commit to building a team of diverse members. Businesses should also create objective criteria to evaluate and assess job candidates, as well as employee performance, to ensure that qualified individuals of different backgrounds have an equal chance of being selected and promoted.
Provide workplace opportunities to discuss social issues
The lives, values, and needs of employees are equally important to those of customers, and employees want to see that their employer believes in social responsibility. Businesses should pay attention to the causes and social justice movements that their employees support, and provide opportunities to discuss them as they arise. For example, businesses can hold monthly inclusion events, such as workshops, panel discussions, and open forums, that allow employees to voice concerns about how aspects of the workplace may be contributing to the problem and share ideas for how the company can address these concerns.