4 ways to introduce social initiatives into your business - Generocity Philly

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Feb. 20, 2017 9:44 am

4 ways to introduce social initiatives into your business

Corporate social responsibility programs should come from employees themselves — and other advice from the MilkCrate team.

MilkCrate staff at Benajmin's Desk.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Caitlin Honan, MilkCrate's director of communications and client experience.
MilkCrate is now in the business of corporate social responsibility. Impact tracking, to be exact.

Expanding on our once-consumer-facing sustainability app, our new platform — MilkCrate for Communities — provides a holistic employee engagement tool for corporations looking to make an impact. Essentially, we’re working to disseminate social and environmental values in the form of a fun (and competitive) mobile app experience. (You can read all about it here.) (Intrigued? Let’s talk.)

And while our business model may have changed, our mission and values have remained steadfast. Our values-driven culture ultimately means that we are driven to use and embrace our power as a business to do good by the world. We have found this to be the case across Philly — and globally, too. In the context of the current political climate, defined in part by threats to the environment and social safeguards, our work becomes more important than ever.

So, if you’re feeling inspired to help your business explore more impact-focused initiatives, read on for four pieces of advice (including some wise words from Philadelphia companies already doing a bang-up job):

1. Don’t have a culture of impact at work? Demand it.

Nearly half of the employees surveyed in Net Impact’s 2012 “What Workers Want” report would take a 15 percent pay cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact. This number is increasing as socially conscious millennials grow in the workplace. But, if impact isn’t already woven into a corporation’s business plan, is it the employee’s values that makes a business prioritize it?

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Trevor Prichett, partner and chief operating officer at Yards Brewing Company, says that the company’s strong connection to social and environmental responsibility does, in fact, come from within.

“If it’s important to [our employees], it’s important to us,” he says.

The brewery, known for their locally sourced, seasonal beer, has arguably become just as well known for its giving-back efforts. “Brew Unto Others” is its motto, reflecting its commitment to quality, sustainability and community.

If you crave this dedication to impact at your workplace, develop a thoughtful script to share with a supervisor, human resources director or any other appropriate member of management. Generally, these people are open to feedback, especially when it’s proven to help the company’s bottom line and reputation. Notice you’re not the only one? Power is in numbers. Act as their representative and express your interests and how they might align with impactful initiatives.

2. Give back.

Whether it’s making annual, collective donations, planning volunteer outings or running educational workshops for area youth, there are huge benefits to getting your company active in the community.

Rob Cheetham, president and CEO of local geospatial tech and research company Azavea, runs an organization rooted in civic and social impact. This responsible way of doing business “should be woven into the way an organization is operated — it’s a culture and mindset,” Cheetham said.

Azavea’s website outlines the ways in which they maintain this ideal, including their dedication to giving back two percent of their profits to a nonprofit organization each year. And their team works collaboratively to decide where to allocate funds.

“I think there is a broad realization that businesses need to be profitable, but they need to consider more than just profits in order to be considered successful,” Cheetham also noted.

Giving back while involving employees in the process naturally strengthens your company’s reputation amongst the community, and, in return, can also create a positive, enriched workforce.

3. Streamline your approach.

Even if you wanted to implement all of the initiatives and philosophies discussed above, it’s important to streamline your approach. Having a focus and an attainable goal will make your actions easier to track and more impactful in the long run, especially if resources are limited. Prichett noted he wished he had realized this earlier on in Yards’ early years, as the interests of its executives and shareholders were always broad.

Simply put: Find a cause that aligns with the mission of your company.

For early-stage companies that have limited financial resources, Prichett said it’s a time to think outside the box. Rather than financial-based donations, he suggested to donate time, services that relate to your skillsets or partnering with your stakeholders in creative ways. Here’s a great roundup of ways to give back without necessarily donating cash.

4. Show the outside world that you mean business: Consider a B Corp certification.

It’s a lengthy, sometimes difficult process — MilkCrate did it back in July — but becoming a B Corporation stands as a reminder to the outside world that your business has met some of the most rigorous social and environmental standards out there. Beyond that, it serves to hold your company accountable each and every day, can help attract new talent and even contribute as a basis for investment. At MilkCrate, we consider the certification as one of three pillars in creating a comprehensive corporate social responsibility strategy.

Want to more about how to develop a holistic CSR strategy from the ground up? MilkCrate recently compiled a white paper titled “The Three Pillars of Corporate Sustainability” that provides local resources and even more insight from companies like Azavea.

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Caitlin Honan

Caitlin Honan is a communications pro with personal passions that include advocating on behalf of the environment, social impact and pizza. The South Jersey native studied journalism at La Salle University and has spent the last three years promoting sustainability and managing client relations as the director of communications and client experience at MilkCrate.

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