You can have your impact and profit too! You want to support your community and society and you need your business to be profitable. Learn how…
Note, this was originally published in Making Soap Magazine, July 2019
Community impact and operating with high social and environmental standards is ingrained in the hand-made soap and cosmetics sector. I think it comes from the nature of the sector, the people in it, and the natural caring nature with which they operate.
This article isn’t about telling you to do more. I know you are already doing all you can to support social and environmental issues. This article is about how you can gain more for your business from what you are doing. Because, if your business isn’t successful, there is no way your environmental and community support can be sustainable.
The first point is to realize that it is perfectly OK to expect value for your business when you support community, environmental and social issues. You aren’t running a charity and donation machine. You can’t support every cause and, to be honest, it doesn’t make any sense to support causes that are not either important to you personally, or strategically important to your business.
A great example of this is the Hand Crafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild support for campaigns against plastic. Irresponsible use of plastic is damaging terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Using bar soap instead of liquid soap reduces plastic use, and helps the hand-crafted bar soap makers. And it gives consumers an amazing soap. A win, win, win.
So, let’s get started and find your win, win, win spots. You can do this yourself, but it is a lot more fun to do as a group. I find this exercise is one of the best team-building and group energy exercises you can do – and you produce an important strategy for your business at the same time.
- The first step is to know your why, your purpose, your overall value proposition. Why are you making soap and cosmetics products? What is your purpose? All of your purposes? Which are the most important? Which purpose(s) are the ones that motivate you the most?
- If you are already supporting social, community and environmental projects (which most of you are) make a list of them. All of them that you can think of.
- Now, analyze them for value and impact. For each project or organization ask yourself:
a. What good does your support do for them? What is the value to them? (not financial value but value and impact that supports their purpose)
b. What good does your support do for your business? What is the value and impact you are getting from it? Could you get more? (more on this later)
c. Who or what else gets value and impact from your support? The broader community? The environment? Other?
- Analyze your results. Organize the projects and groups you are supporting into three groups
a. Those that are creating strong value and impact for your business and for the project or organization you are supporting.
b. Those that are creating strong value and impact for the project or organization but having little or no impact for your business
c. Those that are having a strong impact on your business, but little or none on the project or organization
- For those that are creating strong value and impact for your business and the project or organization, you are supporting. These are the win win win initiatives that create value and don’t just distribute it. Ask yourself if there are ways you could create and capture even more value for yourself and the project or organization.
- For those that are creating strong value and impact for the project or organization but having little or no impact for your business ask yourself how/if you can do things differently so that you and your business get value and impact from it. If you can’t think of a workable strategy for this, these are the ones that you need to ask yourself if it makes sense to continue supporting them.
If it isn’t doing anything for you and your business that support is probably better invested in other areas where you will have more impact and create more value. It is often personally difficult to extricate yourself from non-productive relationships like this, but realize that if you stay in it, you are using resources that could go to a project or initiative that would create more value and impact, including for your business.
- For those that are having a strong impact on your business, but little or none on the project or organization. These are tough ones. Are you fair to the project or organization if your support isn’t having an impact for them? Is there any way you could structure your support differently, or do anything differently that would create more value and impact for the project or organization you are working with.
- Some more questions to think about. We will go deeper into these in a subsequent post
• Do your customers know about your social, community and environmental support?
• Is it important for them?
• Can you engage them in it?
• Can you organize your engagement so it can create more value for your customers?
By the end of these eight steps, you should have a much better understanding of your social and environmental projects and engagement and, more importantly, how to focus on value and impact so you can integrate social, environmental and business interests.
Integrating and aligning business, social, and environmental interests has long been a passion and practice of mine. I’ve worked in the space where value meets society for decades. Recently I founded and still lead the CSR Training Institute, teaching, consulting, lecturing, and writing about creating value in the space where business meets society. I also founded and lead Baraka Shea Butter, a for-profit, social purpose venture.
You can learn more about and the CSR Training Institute by clicking the links included. To discover more about Baraka’s social impact, click here; to see the Sustainability Resource Centre’s videos, articles, and resources, click here. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a lot of blogs and posts in the CSR Training Institute’s resource centre but some key ones are:
- CSR is Business: Manage it that way
- Why is more important than How or What
- CSR Budgets Must Create Value