5 ways to ensure business decisions are socially responsible
Running a company means more than making a profit and keeping customers happy. Businesses also need to ensure that their actions and decisions in and outside the workplace are socially responsible.
“I would define ‘socially responsible’ as having an interest in matters that occur not only inside but also outside the organization,” says Alisa Fleming, associate dean at the University of Phoenix School of Business. “Within the organization, companies should be concerned with the well-being of their employees, and with adhering to laws and policies. Companies should also have a commitment to act in the best interest of the public and communities that they serve.”
Fleming says that large, midsize and even small companies can be socially responsible through the products and services they offer and by prompting employees to give back to their communities.
Fleming suggests these five ways for companies to practice socially responsible behavior:
Publicly state your mission, goals and beliefs.
This will guide the company toward responsible corporate behavior, Fleming says. Companies also need to communicate internally to their staff members the importance of corporate responsibility and underline that socially conscious actions align with company values.
“Employees, stakeholders and consumers will then have a better understanding of why this particular company is giving back,” she says. “Share with the world what you are doing.”
Make sure the actions of employees mirror corporate goals and values.
“Employees are more likely to be engaged and want to contribute [to the community] when they see others are involved,” Fleming says. Most important, company leaders need to “walk the talk” and be socially responsible and engaged in such efforts themselves.
Good leaders can help employees make a difference within the company and in the larger community, and generous business decisions can help set the tone, she explains. As an example, Flemings notes that TOMS Shoes company matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes the company provides to a child in need somewhere in the world.
Be a good corporate citizen.
“Think of the corporation as part of the community,” Fleming says. “Consider the responsibilities of the company to the community and the impact of the company’s action. Remain just, fair and ethical in behavior and actions. Comply with laws and regulations.” She notes, as an instance of good corporate citizenship, that some technology companies make a point of donating computers to schools.
Align the company’s social responsibility efforts with its business objectives.
“Evaluate the short-term and long-term costs, benefits and risks of each action in terms of how it affects shareholders, employees, the environment and society,” she says.
Remember that commitment should be continuous.
Be consistent, Fleming urges. Efforts to be socially responsible need to be continuous in order to “demonstrate the company’s commitment to making a positive impact at the environmental, economic and social levels within the community.”