As the world has become more connected, we are afforded a clearer lens into issues affecting the rest of the world. The result is a new wave of digital natives who are socially conscious consumers -- with millennials leading the pack. Indeed, a recent report found that out of any generation, Gen Y is considered the most focused on corporate social responsibility. The research also pointed to the fact that many millennials were more trusting (91 percent) and more loyal (89 percent) to businesses that had an underlying social cause. Eighty-nine percent stated they were also more likely to buy from these companies. These findings are something businesses should not take lightly, as the millennial generation spends about $170 billion and by 2020 will be responsible for 30 percent of retail purchases and make up 50 percent of the workforce, according to a recent ComScore study. It is also important to keep in mind that people grouped under other generations also into social responsibility, but it just seems that the trend is gaining more and more momentum with younger folks.
If you own a business, or are thinking about starting one, you may be considering incorporating a social mission into your company. As you make this determination, keep these five things in mind:
1. Money comes first. Your first objective is to run a profitable and sustainable business. You will have no positive social impact if your business fails. You will need to be confident that you and your business are capable of balancing the competing demands on scarce resources, by first obsessing over customer experience and product. Your social mission will do little for your business if you don’t have a product or service that people can become passionate about.
2. The social mission can't be an afterthought. If you’ve decided to incorporate a social mission into your company’s business objectives, make sure to build that social mission into the core of your company’s brand and culture. A mission on the periphery of your brand will soon become an afterthought and will add little value to your company.
3. Everyone should be on board. Find a way to stay true to the deeper mission of performing social good. One of the best ways to do this is to build a company culture that supports and reinforces your social mission.
For example, having staff volunteer days, sending care packages to the people your company supports, or even visiting these partners can all go a long way toward boosting company morale and helping everyone keep the mission in mind.
4. A social mission does not equate to freebies. Avoid simply giving stuff away. Empowerment is the goal. Handouts hobble local marketplaces and do little to create long-lasting social impact, so make sure that your company is giving in a sustainable way. Warby Parker is a great example of a company doing it right. Instead of simply giving away glasses for every pair of glasses sold, they work with nonprofit partners who train entrepreneurs in developing countries to give basic eye exams and sell glasses in their communities.
5. Use it to attract talent. Most businesses fail in the first five years. Giving away scarce profits may reduce your chances of success, but having a strong and authentic social mission can differentiate you from your competitors. It can also help attract and retain great talent. At Cotopaxi, we had over 300 unsolicited job applicants in the month of our launch. People want to be a part of a company and movement that helps others, and an authentic social mission can turn customers into loyal brand evangelists. Most importantly, building a purpose driven business feels incredible. There are few things more rewarding than serving others.
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