Business as a force for good

Hunter Johnson of the Man Cave is launching a mens personal care range as a social enterprise to help fund the work of the not-for-profit, which is working with boys and young men to redefine healthy masculinity

In this time, as consumers increasingly demand to shop their values, from brands committed to building a better world, all businesses have a unique opportunity to create impact by integrating responsible practices into their core operations. Through various initiatives, businesses can address social and environmental challenges, improve communities, and contribute to sustainable development.

Here are some ways businesses are creating impact and beginning to meet all stakeholders’ – rather than only shareholders – expectations:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Many businesses have established CSR programs, which involve activities that benefit society. These programs can include philanthropy, employee volunteering, environmental sustainability efforts, and ethical business practices. CSR initiatives help businesses build positive relationships with communities, improve their reputation, and make a meaningful difference in the areas they operate.
  • Social Entrepreneurship: Social entrepreneurship uses business strategies to solve social and environmental problems. Social entrepreneurs create innovative business models that generate both financial and social returns. They address issues such as poverty, education, healthcare, and environmental sustainability. These businesses create jobs, empower communities, and offer sustainable solutions to societal challenges.
  • Impact Investing: Impact investing refers to investing in companies, organizations, and funds that generate positive social and environmental outcomes alongside financial returns. Impact investors prioritize businesses that align with their values and actively seek to create social impact through their investment decisions. This approach encourages businesses to adopt responsible practices and encourages the growth of socially conscious enterprises.
  • Sustainable Supply Chains: Businesses can create social impact by ensuring their supply chains are sustainable and ethical. This involves working with suppliers that uphold fair labor practices, protect workers’ rights, and minimize environmental harm. By promoting responsible sourcing and collaborating with suppliers, businesses can improve working conditions and drive positive change throughout the supply chain.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Creating a diverse and inclusive work environment is not only a moral imperative but also a business strategy that drives social impact. Businesses that prioritize diversity and inclusion foster innovation, improve decision-making, and better serve their customers. They also contribute to creating more equitable societies by challenging systemic biases and promoting equal opportunities for all.

Rachel Lowry is Chief Conservation Office at World Wildlife Fund. Many NGOs are becoming more innovative, developing social enterprise business models alongside their traditional philanthropic activities, to ensure sustainable funding enables them to scale their impact.

Audette Exel, Founder and Chair of the Adara Group, was one of the leading proponents of business-for-purpose over 20 years ago, when she established her profit-for-purpose model, working to leveraging the power of the capital markets to end trafficking in remote Nepal and build a centre of excellence for maternal health in Uganda.

  • Skill Development and Education: Many businesses are involved in initiatives that support skill development and education in communities. This can include providing scholarships, training programs, and mentorship opportunities. By investing in education, businesses contribute to economic empowerment, social mobility, and the development of a skilled workforce.
  • Social and Environmental Innovation: Businesses can create social impact by developing innovative products, services, and technologies that address social and environmental challenges. For example, companies working on renewable energy, clean technologies, and sustainable materials contribute to mitigating climate change and reducing environmental degradation. Similarly, businesses that develop affordable and accessible healthcare solutions or provide clean water and sanitation services improve people’s well-being.

Yet while there is no silver bullet, customers are not expecting perfection – but an authentic commitment from the business. It’s a journey – that consumers want to be on with a brand. Even if that means ‘warts and all’, the journey humanises the business and connects us with the deeper purpose of the organisation.

Through any or all these approaches, by integrating responsible practices into a businesses’ core operations, every business can play a crucial role in building a more sustainable and equitable world. Indeed, this is what we now expect as consumers, if we are to mitigate the impacts of climate change, tackle growing inequality and begin to redefine business as a net-positive force for the planet.

Jeremy Meltzer is Founder & CEO of i=Change


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