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Companies with a Social Responsibility Do Better

Monte Wyatt & Brad Sugars, Oct 01, 2019

Part of leadership is giving people something to be passionate about; a common purpose that gets them excited when they show up for work because they can see that they are doing something of value for themselves and the broader community, every single day. It’s challenging to feel passionate about a company that’s only focused on making money.

That might seem to fly in the face of truth: many people are passionate about money. Everyone wants it, and when they get it, they want still more. It motivates a lot of people to do a lot of things.

But money is only a short-term motivator. Once there’s enough of it to satisfy basic needs or dreams of riches, (most) people need more to inspire them to work so hard. They look for passion. This applies equally to employees and members of the executive team. It’s likely that you’re doing what you’re currently doing for a living because it’s about more than money. It’s more likely about your purpose.

Making money is the fringe benefit of fulfilling your purpose. When you fulfill your purpose, money flows. When organizations achieve their purpose, adding zeros flows. When you don’t know what your purpose is, there can be money problems and worse.

When you have a clear purpose, you’ll change the world and all the people and communities with whom your organization interacts. When your entire team believes there’s a compelling reason for you to be in business, there’s an emotional connection with the organization that motivates and inspires them even when they have frustrations.

Here are several companies that are super successful, and that have a strong commitment to giving back. Their purpose is part of their brand character.

  • Bosch continues to operate by the values of founder Robert Bosch, who said “I have always acted according to the principle that it is better to lose money than trust.” The credo that “responsibility creates trust” carries through in the company’s efforts around ecological and social improvement. Bosch invests 50% of its R&D budget in technologies that support conservation and environmental protection.
  • Ben & Jerry’s has a reputation for social responsibility that goes back to its initial public offering in 1985. That’s when the company decided to allocate 7.5% of pretax profits to philanthropy. The foundation now awards almost $2 million a year to fund community action, social change, sustainability, and other initiatives in Ben & Jerry's home state of Vermont and throughout the country.
  • IKEA's IKEA Foundation focuses on funding home, health, education, and sustainable income for communities in need. In 2017, the foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign funded a solar farm to bring renewable power to Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp. This is the world’s first solar plant built in a refugee setting and will save $1.5 million, as well as reduce CO₂ emissions by 2,370 tons annually.
  • Levi Strauss & Co. demonstrates social responsibility through sustainability initiatives such as Water<Less, which significantly reduces water use in manufacturing, by up to 96% for some styles. Since launching the process in 2011, Levi Strauss has saved more than 1 billion liters of water. By 2020, the company expects to manufacture 80% of its products through this process.

To recap, making money is the fringe benefit of fulfilling your purpose. When you fulfill your purpose, money flows. When organizations achieve their purpose, they add zeros.

We'd love to hear from you. What other companies do you know of that have strong social responsibility programs? Thank you for sharing.