Social consciousness can be defined as awareness of social problems. However, awareness is hardly enough by itself, particularly if you own a business and hope to attract top talent and establish a resilient organisation.
According to Impact Reporting, more than 20 per cent of consumers and investors have zero tolerance for brands with questionable ethics.
Besides the aforementioned talent attraction, investor interest, and company resilience, socially conscious policies also open up collaboration opportunities with other brands.
It’s easier to find common ground when policies align. Working with socially conscious companies raises further awareness.
Finally, you could become eligible for tax breaks, but that should never be the reason to build a genuine, socially conscious business.
The benefits are pretty clear, but are they enough to encourage businesses to change their stance in practice? Not necessarily.
The Greenwashing Problem
Just because a business claims that they are socially conscious, it does not mean that the claims are real. Greenwashing happens more often than one expects, and it is common to see a lack of interest from the public and media.
Thankfully, the status quo is changing as more and more stories see the light of day thanks to independent reporting by people who actually care and want to raise awareness.
For example, in 2020, IKEA, a company among the best in terms of sustainability credits, was found to be illegally cutting forests in Ukraine to make chairs. The illegally sourced wood was certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which is arguably the worst thing about this story because FSC should be the ones to prevent such events in the first place.
And what about H&M Fashion? Despite the fact that the brand has a dedicated conscious choice product page, a report by Changing Markets Foundation in 2021 found that 6 out of 10 fashion brands mislead consumers with their so-called sustainability claims. H&M was the worst offender since 96% of the brand’s claims were also.
The “practice what you preach” motto does not really work for most of the biggest and most established brands in the world, and it is unfortunate that they can get away with it.
Having said that, as an aspiring business owner, you do not need to pay heed to what other brands are up to. If you are serious about social problems and want to establish a positive work environment, start with building a solid foundation.
Think How to Make Your Product Environmentally Friendly
First, you have to consider how to make your product environmentally friendly. Or, at least, reduce the damage it does.
The drawback is pretty clear—for most businesses, the investments would be too big to introduce the changes. And not just the money, but the time.
On the other hand, expenses used to introduce green policies would mean appealing to environmentally conscious demographics. The approach builds loyalty, meaning that the customers would still support the business.
Introducing eco-friendly packaging is a good example and should arguably be the first step to building a solid foundation for a socially conscious business.
ASOS, a fashion brand, might not have the traits of a company that manufactures the most sustainable products, but it is still making an effort to be friendlier to the environment.
By lowering the thickness of its signature mailer bags, ASOS reportedly reduces annual plastic usage by 583 tonnes per year. Moreover, the company also has a recycling program for customer-return mailing bags.
Transportation emissions and costs are another problem. Ideally, a business should source materials locally.
If there is an opportunity to collaborate with local businesses, you should take it even if the collaboration feels trivial. Every little counts and you can build on small steps. For instance, if you have to order stickers with QR codes, new calendars for the office, ink for printers, or anything else that your business needs, make sure that you check with the local suppliers first.
Support the Right Causes and Donate to Charities
A socially conscious business is also one that cares about supporting the right causes. It is no secret that many corporations try to gloss over the fact that they are damaging the environment and use charitable donations as PR.
A genuinely conscious business should be one that does not hide its bad deeds with PR schemes and puts effort into supporting good causes.
The odds are that there might be multiple options to explore as far as charities go. Most businesses stick to local causes because it does more than just support. It is easier to connect with a local community and encourage those around you to become socially conscious as well.
Again, the idea can start slow. Even as little as $1 from every employee per month might add up to a hefty sum. And these small deeds will build socially conscious policies within the company with the prospect of the policies expanding.
Who knows, your business might go as far as establishing a non-profit organisation or a fund, similar to what Google Dot Org or CVS Health Foundation is.
Corporate volunteering is becoming more and more common. Many companies are encouraging their employees to volunteer.
For instance, Impact Brands has the policy to let employees take two days off if they dedicate this time to volunteering.
Volunteering can also be encouraged by organising events. A business has the public position to raise awareness about important causes.
Some brands do fundraisers. Others take a more proactive approach and plant trees or clean neglected areas.
The ways in which one can volunteer varies, but there is no denying that businesses benefit a lot by encouraging more volunteers, particularly in establishing socially conscious traditions in the company.
Wrapping It Up
To sum it all up, building a foundation to become a socially conscious business can be a slow process. However, with the right approach and willingness to invest time and other resources, you can make noticeable progress and create a business that is not just about appearances but one actually doing good for the environment and other important causes.