Trying to keep to your social purpose? Here are 5 actions that can help.
One of the main changes in the culture of many organisations over the last dozen years has been the importance of creating a social or environmental purpose.
Why has this change happened?
Activism, especially among Millennials, is one of the main factors that is encouraging many brands to get more socially active. When consumers were asked by Neilsen whether they would be more likely to buy from a firm that has an active sense of social responsibility, 66% agreed – this figure increases to more than 73% for millennials.
And businesses are not just accountable to their customers. Their current and future employees want to work for an employer that has a mission beyond just making money, and investors now choose socially responsible companies as stronger more resilient companies with a long-term view.
Increasing commitment by businesses
Most large organisations will include some mention of social responsibility in their corporate aims. But one of the main differences is the number that are putting social purpose at the heart of their long-term strategy. And this not limited to just charities, public bodies and social enterprises. An increasing number of businesses now have social objectives as a key element of their corporate mission.
Although businesses vary in the level of commitment to social engagement, there are many world class organisations that can demonstrate a sustained and dedicated approach to social concerns over many years. Take a look at 100 of the world’s leading brands in 2019, in fact, this year’s list had the strongest record on Corporate Social Responsibility to date.
There are many benefits to any company embarking on creating a social mission for their business but there are many things to consider.
Here are five things you should be aware of when you are considering developing or maintaining your social purpose:
1. You need to be crystal clear about the good that you
intend to do.
Having a vague social mission statement may be ok if it is backed up by detailed objectives and strategic plan. However, without those detailed plans, it risks you looking as if you lack a commitment to your chosen cause. In most cases, you will be relying on your staff, customers and supporters to provide time and energy, over and above their normal working hours. So, you must treat your social objectives with the same rigour that your business would apply to any other key business objective. Without this level of focus, there is a big danger that your aspirations will run into the sand.
As a result, your company’s stakeholders may become disillusioned and you may attract negative publicity. And if this happens, it will become more difficult to relaunch your social purpose. Often the social mission needs the active support of staff and others to go over and above their normal jobs and working hours.
2. Everything in your business must align with your social purpose
Creating a social mission needs attention to detail as well
as a grand vision. You need to consider whether your business-practices are
consistent with your social purpose. This can include the type of customer
(especially B2B), your suppliers, how products or services you use are sourced,
how resources and people are treated within your businesses. One of the biggest
reasons that social purpose can be derailed is the charge of hypocrisy. Many
audiences will be looking for ways to highlight inconsistencies between your
stated social goals and what you do. Thinking this through can help you avoid
Additionally, you will need to regularly audit how well your business is doing against your social aims. Unfortunately, as time goes by, the focus on your social aims can become less sharp. Choices may be made in the business that might conflict with your social purpose. So, for example, if your social mission includes ethical sourcing of products but your purchasing team decide to choose a supplier offering lower prices but has a poor record on employee pay and conditions, this short-term financial gain could undermine the long term effort to build a socially responsive brand.
3. Don’t overpromise
There are so many beneficial projects and only so much time and resources. And they will create a lot of energy and excitement among your staff and supporters. Unfortunately, this can result in too many projects being planned and started. The problem here is that it becomes very difficult to rein in this enthusiasm resulting in disappointed staff and supporters when projects are unable to be completed due to budget or resource.
4. Understand your financial commitment
Every project requires an income stream, even if that income stream has been allocated as a budget by the business. And this is no different for social-based projects. This can be a particular problem for social enterprises that are generating surpluses for the good cause. There is often a risk of spending these surpluses / allocated budget multiple times.
5. Keep communicating with your team
As the organisation takes on initiatives, these affect how your team perceives the social mission. And there can be a slippage as your enthusiastic supporters articulate your social mission in their own way. Create a key messaging document including the aims and key messages of the social mission. Keeping a regular flow of communication about the progress of your social project can help to all your stakeholders on board. Keep reminding them of what your social aims and highlighting your progress against these. This will help to ensure that everyone in the business is giving out the same messages.
The most important take away is that creating a social mission can be very valuable for a business to build stronger relationships with customers, staff, investors and other stakeholders. However, it must be undertaken carefully, with a long-term vision which will need planning and the active involvement of all parts of the business.