YOUR BUSINESS CAN BE A BIGGER FORCE FOR GOOD THAN YOU THINK
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
— Yvon Chouinard, CEO, Patagonia
You’ve probably heard the phrase “business as a force for good” thrown around in the past few years — the idea that we can solve our world’s environmental and social issues through business.
Great idea, but I bet you’re thinking, “Yeah yeah, but I’m just a little guy, I can’t afford to do that.”
I’m here to tell you that you can, and you must!
According to smallbiztrends.com, only 40% of small businesses are profitable — so if we all decided to wait until we had enough profits to contribute to environmental and social causes, we wouldn’t have much of a planet or society left to save.
It’s grim, but stay with me.
The problem is that we’ve all been stuck in the old philanthropic or corporate social responsibility mindset of ‘make the money, then give back to a cause’. Which served the world for awhile, but we need a new style of business to get us through the current crisis.
Call it social enterprise, impact business, purposeful business, whatever — the new way to do business is to embed impact into the very core of what you do.
And here’s a few ways to do it.
YOUR PRODUCT COULD BE THE SOLUTION.
You probably know about social enterprise Who Gives A Crap’s give-back mission — they donate 50% of profits to the provision of toilets and sanitation facilities in developing countries. But considering that the equivalent of 27,000 trees are flushed down the drain as toilet paper every year, perhaps the greater impact that WGAC has every day is that their product is made from either 100% recycled wood pulp or rapidly renewable bamboo fibre.
So before you think about adding a give-back cause to your business, start to consider how your product itself can help save the planet.
HELP! I DON’T HAVE A PRODUCT!
Hey there service-provider business folks, don’t worry, there’s a way you can help the world too.
No matter what service you’re providing, there are ways you can limit your business’s impact. Perhaps you’re a cleaning business and you use only non-toxic, plant-based, and plastic-free cleaning products. Or maybe you’re an accountant who has fully offset the carbon footprint of operating your online business (hello, carbon-neutral tax returns!).
I’m a big fan of Words With Heart, a Brisbane-based printery that will only print using eco-friendly paper stock and inks. Every order with Words With Heart also funds women and girls education programs. Another double-whammy on the impact front.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL.
I’ve heard this phrase for years, but it was only recently that I really started to understand the meaning behind it — we get so caught up in the scale of global issues like climate change, inequality, and war, that it’s hard not to get paralysed by hopelessness. But the biggest impact you can make is in what you do every day in your street, town, or city.
What are some ways that you can give back to the community you live and work in? The community which most likely includes your clients and customers.
Perhaps consider volunteering at a fundraising event, or donating your graphic design skills to a local not-for-profit. Sometimes the gifts of skills, time and energy, are far more beneficial to a small organisation or community group, than any dollar amount.
THERE ARE NO COMPETITORS.
Unless you truly dream of world domination, I don’t think any of us ACTUALLY want to be in a position where we are the sole provider of xx product or service — I mean, sure you might be swimming in wealth, but you’re probably also stressed to the eyeballs.
The business game teaches us to always seek to outsmart and beat our competitors, but what if we could throw that ego game out the window and start to work with our competitors?
Our coworking space, The Corner Palm, couldn’t possibly serve every single coworker in the Byron region — and we wouldn’t want to! We know that we offer one particular type of service, and that service and vibe is not for everyone. We need to work together with the other coworking studios in town to make sure that, together, we are helping nourish this thriving business community.
At the very least, business will feel much lighter and nicer if we’re friends with everyone, including our competitors.
Simon Sinek would say that good business is about your why, well, I would politely propose that actually it’s about the how — how you make your product, how you provide your service, how you treat your staff, how you serve your community, how you feel about your competitors.
These are the little things we can all start to think about to create more good in, and with, our businesses.
And if it all feels like too much to tackle on top of your already never-ending to-do list, I challenge you to just start — even Patagonia, one of the world’s most purpose-driven businesses, was once also at the start of their impact journey too (you can read all about that journey in their book, The Responsible Company).
Choose to be and do better.
You’ll feel better for it, and your business will be better for it. I promise.
If you want to learn more about how to start your impact journey, we’ll be running a workshop on Embedding Impact Into Your Business in Byron Bay, on Saturday 10 August.
Click here to book your spot.