by Ben Goldhirsh, Co-Founder and CEO, GOOD
The recent housing crisis in 2009 spurs one entrepreneur to start a business focused on green building techniques that provides affordable housing developments and sustainable housing. Another entrepreneur creates an online exchange for friends and neighbors to share items like garden tools, camping gear and small kitchen appliances in an effort to reduce the amount we consume.
Smaller organizations are seizing the opportunity to act socially responsible — to maintain a balance between the economy and the ecosystem.
Many companies believe they have a responsibility to “give back” to society, whether it be by delivering environmentally-friendly products and services or simply a desire to improve the lives of individuals here and around the globe. Such socially responsible companies see to it that this “consciousness” permeates everything they do.
However, a trade-off always exists between economic development and the welfare of society and the environment. Social responsibility means sustaining the equilibrium between the two.
For some time, we’ve been focused on businesses, talking with entrepreneurs and CEOs around the world, examining how consumer trends influence how companies do business. In fact, we’ve found many small and midsize businesses who not only bring successful business services to the table, but also have a financial model that supports core strengths such as diversity, creativity, sustainability, social responsibility, globalization and innovation.
In speaking with these business owners, we found that many are closely identified with their businesses. Smaller business owners are more likely to live in the city or town where they conduct business, especially for those who do business in small towns. It is their home. They are long term residents. Their children attend local schools and play in local parks. Their families personally benefit from safe streets, vital downtowns, and strong civic organizations.
Moreover, in smaller communities, they are more visible than similarly sized businesses in metropolitan locations. In fact, Just Born, the candy manufacturer of Mike & Ike and Peanut Chews, making its candy available to 1.5 billion people worldwide, engages with the local community of its Bethlehem, PA headquarters through a comprehensive volunteer program and donations to over 150 local charities, nonprofits and schools, while at the same recycling more than 90 percent of its waste.
Small businesses can more easily find inventive ways of collaborating with other small businesses, either through their Chamber of Commerce, local branches of associations, networking groups, or just in their local business community. Helping each other to develop a healthy local economy and sustainable business practices is the kind of community involvement that can help the entire community grow.
A recent Nielsen’s Global Corporate Citizenship Survey found 46 percent of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies who have implemented programs to give back to society. Furthermore, younger consumers tend to be more socially conscious, the research shows. More than half of consumers between 15 and 39 years old said they were willing to pay extra for such items, compared with 37 percent of those over 40.
And many companies are responding to this market shift in ways that integrate causes fully into their business strategy and brand identities. The intersection of technology, entrepreneurship, business and social good is generating a new wave of opportunities – and small businesses are leading the way.