Can doing good transform your business into one that not only performs well but also produces good for the world? Yes!
Businesses can act as a force for good by incorporating many different ideas and practices into their work. For example, March happens to be B Corp Month, and B Corps are “companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.” This special certification means that the business respectfully supports a balance between people, planet and profit.
Prosper for Purpose was certified in 2016, but your business does not have to be a certified B Corp in order for you to use it as a force for good. I’m going to share 10 ways that you can act as a force for good through your business and use that impact to help your business grow. But first, what does it really mean to act as a force for good?
The Dalai Lama is credited with coining the phrase “a force for good.” His belief is that one acts as a force for good when their actions are “inspired by a genuine concern for others.” When you act out of compassion — whether it’s for a person, a group of people or the planet — you plant seeds that enable goodness to grow.
One way to think about it is in terms of value exchange. With minimal effort, you can create good that positively impacts you, your business, your customers and your community (and, perhaps, the global community as well!). Another way to envision this goal is that your aim is to create a ripple effect. Even if your company is small, you can use your work to create lasting change by starting a ripple that positively affects all the people with whom your business associates.
At the end of 2012, I left my previous place of employment and decided to start Prosper for Purpose. I had the vision to take what I love doing most — working in social justice advocacy — and bring that into my own business. I wanted to create positive change. That said, true change starts on the inside. So, as I explored what I could do with my business to create a positive impact, I also acknowledged that the change I wanted to create must radiate from within. Since then, I’ve created my own ripple effect by taking what I learned at my previous jobs and expanding on that in my work for Prosper for Purpose.
Now, as promised, here are 10 things you can do to create good that will also have a positive impact on you and your business:
- Pay a living wage to any and all employees. Make sure that what you are paying your employees is a wage on which they can realistically live. If you’re hiring interns or filling a temporary position, then that’s a bit different, but still show those employees, as well, that you value what they’re contributing to your business by paying them what their work is actually worth. Employees will invest more effort when you invest in them.
- Be flexible with employee schedules to the extent that you can. Of course, it won’t be possible to be flexible on every single occasion, but being flexible when you’re able shows your employees that you genuinely care about their well-being. You’ll likely need to set aside some core time when you know your employees will be available, but maybe you have three different people who work staggered days. Alternatively, perhaps you have one employee who works 11 am to 7 pm instead of working the usual 9-to-5. There are various ways to accomplish this, but the important takeaway is recognizing that different people have different needs. Providing flexible schedules can allow you to attract employees who may not have applied for a position otherwise. Plus, showing appreciation for your employees will encourage their appreciation in return, increasing the odds that they will gladly come to work early or stay late the next time there is a crucial need for extra help.
- Give your employees time off to volunteer. At Prosper for Purpose, we offer our employees three full days of paid time off for volunteer work each year. They are welcome to volunteer their time wherever they want. They can deliver groceries to the elderly, join a beach clean-up, or walk dogs for a local animal shelter. By allowing this, you support their interests and enable them to do good while building a positive rapport between your business and the community. Another idea is scheduling biannual (or even quarterly!) office volunteer days and allowing employees to submit volunteer options, vote on the activity, and work together to do good.
- Support the health and wellness of your employees. Not every employer is going to be able to afford health insurance, but discover what you can afford, and offer that. For example, maybe you offer gift cards to your new employees to join some yoga classes, dance classes or a local gym. You could even purchase a virtual yoga or Zumba class that your employees are welcome to join a couple of times a week as an office activity that you do together. Doing things like providing stipends for gym memberships and having healthy snacks around the workplace supports a healthy, happy and more productive staff.
- Invest in educational activities and foster innovation. These two things go hand in hand. Ask your team what they want to do better at work. Investing in helping them achieve those goals is an investment in your company. Maybe there is a class you could purchase to support them, or perhaps you could invite a speaker who has found success doing what it is that your team wishes to accomplish. Ask yourself, “What can I do to support my employees so they feel more empowered to do their job well?” Think about it in terms of creativity. Invite your employees to be creative themselves and come talk to you if they think they know a better way to do their job or they think the company could perform better by doing things differently. Let your employees know that you encourage everyone to have a voice because sharing ideas leads to innovation, and innovation drives your business forward.
- Give back to your community. There are countless ways that your business can help the community! You can organize office donations, such as a book drive, food drive or presents for families in need during the holidays. Your company can offer college scholarships or invest in products for the office (or holiday presents for employees) that donate a portion of their proceeds to a good cause. Another option would be to donate a portion of your company’s proceeds to a cause. You could even get your clients involved by letting them choose the charity that a percentage of the proceeds from your business with them will go toward. This shows that you care about your clients and what is important to them. If your company produces a product that could be helpful to families in need, you could donate one of those items for every certain number of items sold. Get to know your customers and support organizations that align with the concerns of the people you are serving. Think about their age demographic, what their pressing concerns are, what health issues they are most likely to deal with, etc. What is important to your employees, clients, and/or customers should be important to you.
- Be cognizant of your energy consumption. You can do this as a solopreneur or as a business. Do you use appliances that are energy efficient? Do you keep your heat or air conditioning set to a manageable level and turn it down when you leave the office? Pay attention to these things so you can do your part to help reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.
- Promote and practice sustainable consumption. At Prosper for Purpose, we do not purchase plastic. You can encourage your employees to bring reusable cups to work and keep a refillable Brita pitcher in the fridge. We have also significantly reduced our use of paper. We do have to occasionally print out proposals to be mailed or print deliverables for our clients, but we set goals for our paper consumption and have stuck by those principles. We agreed that we would not have more than one bag of recycling per week, because we used to produce twice as much recycling as we did regular garbage. We encourage one another to ask ourselves each time we go to the printer, “Do I really need to print this?” Ask yourself, “Can my office use more reusable products?” “When I pick up food for the office, do I really need to ask for plastic silverware?” Think about your consumption on a daily basis and share your sustainability goals with your team so you can work together to achieve them. That is when you’ll really start scaling back your impact on the environment!
- Think about your commitment to social justice. As usual, there are many different ways to do this! There are numerous guidelines on diversity, equity and inclusion that have been released in recent years. B Lab put out a framework called JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) to “build teams, cultivate leaders, and make business a force for good.” You can also take a stand for gender parity. A group called “We The Change” released a declaration that business owners can sign promising to:
— Advance women’s leadership, prosperity and well-being
— Promote sustainable business practices and innovations
— Increase the flow of capital to women-led enterprises
— Advocate for systemic changes to uplift marginalized identities
— Align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (We the Change, 2022)
Obviously, you have to make sure that any values your business adopts align with your own values and purpose, but by clearly establishing what your values are and standing by those principles will set your business apart and allow it to have the impact that you desire.
- Finally, be sure to measure and report your impact. You need to measure your impact so you can hold yourself accountable for how you support your employees, how you support your clients/customers, how your business affects the community, and how your business affects the environment. But how does a business measure its impact? There are different ways to measure each of the former suggestions — how you reduce your carbon footprint, how sustainably you consume, etc. For example, if you choose to allow flexible schedules, what percentage of your employees actually took advantage of that option? Record those results and share them with your office. You can also report your impact goals by putting them in the employee handbook, revising your mission statement, writing a purpose statement, or posting a declaration of your commitments on your company website. To summarize, think about what you want to change, what the impact of it will be, and how you can measure it. Then start tracking and reporting those things because, all together, they distinguish your business.
More and more consumers are shopping with their values. Consumers are also more insightful than they used to be and are less inclined to trust your claims if you don’t produce the evidence to back them up. So, take action to back up what you say about your brand and how your business contributes to the greater good.
Share how your company is different and how you use your business as a force for good by stating what you’re dedicated to doing, how you implement it, and what’s the result. Incorporate that message into your copywriting, your social media messaging, etc. By doing this, you’re attracting like-minded employees and your “ideal client/customer avatar.” These people will share your values and invest in your culture, so you want to make sure you put your business out there so they can find you.
— Lorraine Schuchart