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Corporations Address Social Concerns

Corporations address social concerns while achieving business goals and marketing objectives. How can American corporations harness the power of business to help improve the workplace, marketplace, society, and environment?

A business need not be established as a “social enterprise” in order to embrace social concerns and demonstrate corporate social responsibility. All corporate citizens (for-profit, nonprofit, and hybrid enterprises) can find ways to help improve the world around them.

It is advantageous to establish as a nonprofit or low-profit social enterprise if the primary corporate mission and purpose is adopting a public benefit. A social enterprise may take the form of a public charity, benefit corporation, or low-profit limited liability corporation. This will depend on the laws of the state where the business is incorporated.

Unlike conventional commercial enterprises, social enterprises typically devote more time, attention, and resources to public issues. These nonprofit and hybrid businesses are structured primarily to achieve social benefit over revenue generation and financial gain. Other types of businesses should also devote resources to achieve social good.

Corporate enterprises of all types (for-profit, nonprofit and hybrids) can voluntarily take on social challenges as long as they uphold their fiduciary obligations and remain true to their stated missions and purposes. I suggest initially focusing on workplace concerns, then moving to social issues in the marketplace that directly impact your business. Eventually, you may want to address broader social and environmental concerns in keeping with company goals and marketing objectives.

It is generally not necessary to change the legal construct of a business in order to contribute to the betterment of society. Conventional businesses (e.g., C corporations, Sub-chapter S corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, sole proprietors) have a fiscal responsibility to their owners. In commercial business, fiscal responsibility takes priority; however, commercial enterprises should also consider broader stakeholder concerns. In addition to bottom line results, each business should consider its impact on the environment, marketplace, workplace, and society. It is simply good business.

There are many ways to achieve social good. Start by supporting stakeholder concerns and the well-being of those affected by the business. At a minimum, in my opinion all businesses should (a) act in a principled, fair, and honest manner, (b) uphold the law, (c) maintain high integrity and ethical standards, (d) look out for the welfare of their workers, (e) address health and safety issues, (f) conserve resources, (g) protect the environment and, (h) contribute positively to communities where they do business. This is good for the business and good for society. The two are connected.

Fostering corporate social responsibility and building social capital does not mean forgoing revenue-generating opportunities. In fact, commercial businesses can increase profit potential by demonstrating empathy and concern for others.

Demonstrate good corporate citizenship and lead by example. Responsible companies accumulate valuable social capital and corporate goodwill by addressing economic, social, and environmental concerns. Here’s how:

15 Ways to Accumulate Social Capital & Corporate Goodwill

1.     Maintain high ethical standards.

  1. Adopt a higher standard of corporate purpose beyond profits.
  2. Infuse the entire organization with a shared sense of purpose and vision.
  3. Foster a corporate culture that reflects shared values and mission.
    1. Align the business with economic, social, and environmental initiatives that support core competencies, corporate goals, and marketing objectives.
  4. Support concerns that are relevant, meaningful, and measurable.
    1. Leverage philanthropic investments by linking corporate gifting to issues that support the company’s strategic goals.
    2. Conserve resources and minimize environmental footprint.
    3. Improve quality of life for those influenced by the business.
    4. Address fair labor practices, and health and safety issues within the workplace.
    5. Exceed regulatory compliance standards to strengthen corporate image and public perception.
    6. Build triple bottom-line profits through economic prosperity, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship.
    7. Focus on long-term sustainable growth to attract socially-conscious investors, marketing partners, employees, and customers.
    8. Hold management and directors to high standards of transparency, accountability, and social and fiscal responsibility.
    9. Build market presence and generate social-economic return on investment.

The pursuit of profits alone is not good business and it’s not good for society. Crass commercial gain without corporate conscience has spawned a backlash in our society. Within the United States, this is evident from the growth of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Principled companies don’t pursue commercial gain at the expense of all else. They know how to generate profits and be socially responsible. It’s good business.

Watch for my next article Corporate Social Responsibility is Good Business Practice.


  © 2012 Anne Wall, All Rights Reserved.

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