Being a business owner is hard, but changing the world is even harder. So we’re going to talk about some simple, actionable ways to incorporate social impact into your business.
Let’s do well while doing good
If you didn’t know, my mission is to empower women and BIPOC-led brands to overcome the chaos in their brand, get more confident, and level up so they can make more money and shatter glass ceilings and build generational wealth.
Even as a mission-driven, value-driven brand, I’m not an expert at this. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to figure it out. But I do have this core belief that businesses can be successful while also doing good things in the world. I really think those two things can co-exist. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about, and I’m constantly trying to learn and improve and get better. And I’m here to take you along that journey with me.
Lately, I’ve had several clients ask me how they can implement some of these things into their business to take a stand and actually move the needle for a cause that they care about.
Let’s get into it.
7 Simple, Actionable Ways to Create Social Impact in Your Business
1. Speak Up (And Mean It)
The first way to make a social impact with your business is to speak up. Long gone are the days when brands or businesses don’t have a place in the social, cultural, or political sphere. That shit is over.
Consumers expect brands to have strong values and to take a stand on major issues. In fact, it strengthens those bonds with your audience. People prefer brands that align with their values.
I believe that as a business owner, someone who is marketing, as someone who is putting products or services into the world, you are a culture shaper. Meaning the things you do as a business owner contribute to our culture. As such, you have not only the responsibility but the opportunity to do something good with that. And it starts with speaking up and being vocal about shit that’s fucked up, what you’re passionate about, whatever the cause or issue may be.
Talk about it. Be brave. I know it’s scary at first: you’re afraid you’re going to be polarizing, or you’re going to lose some people. And that might be true, but maybe those aren’t your people in the first place. There’s no excuse nowadays for brands to stay silent. We saw that last summer with George Floyd’s death. People were tired of these brands putting out fake statements without any real action and called them out left and right (as they should!). People were done with it.
So, the bare minimum you can do on any issue you’re passionate about is speaking up about it.
Ben and Jerry’s does it better than anyone. They are a very, very socially progressive brand. Not only are they constantly talking about it, but their founders are also out there protesting; they’ve gotten arrested. They have amazing content on their website that’s super educational for everyone and has become a pillar of their brand. They’re a great example of being as vocal as possible and actually living it.
2. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
The second way is to donate a portion of your sales or your profits. This is one of the simplest ways to make an immediate impact. You make money, and you can give money back. Simple as that.
This could be done monthly, annually, by purchase – there are lots of ways. You could involve your consumers and say that a dollar or percentage of a sale is going straight to a cause, or you can do it on the low and donate at the end of the year based on profit. Whatever works for you. (Just be legit about it! Don’t be one of those brands that say they’re donating for clout but don’t follow through! None of that!)
3. Donate Goods or Services
Depending on what your business does, you can do the same thing with goods or services instead of money.
Tom’s former donation model is a typical example of this. Their brand was built around their “buy one, give one” program. Essentially, you buy a pair of shoes, and then a pair gets donated to someone in need. (They’ve since shifted to donate ⅓ of their profits). It’s a super classic model for these types of social impact brands that you could implement. If one-to-one doesn’t work for you, that’s ok; you can find a way that works for you that donates your goods to do good.
This doesn’t apply just to product-based brands. Service-based brands can do this too! This is where pro bono work comes into play. I started my company with a big service-based grant for a woman-owned and black-owned business, and it’s what led me down this road to defining my brand around this mission. I still do several pro bono projects a year, whether with nonprofits, black-owned, or woman-owned businesses; I try to use my skill set to empower someone else’s business.
You can define the terms of that for your brand. It could be a specific set of hours, a particular project, whatever works for you. There are thousands, if not millions of companies or people out there who are looking for pro bono services, no matter what type of service you offer. So, there’s no shortage of people you could help.
4. Invest in Ethical Sourcing
The fourth way is to source ethically. Now, this is a broad category with a lot that goes into it. Whether you’re creating a product, sourcing goods, materials for that product, or a service provider working with other vendors or using technology platforms, think about who you’re spending your money with and choose sustainable, ethical companies that align with your values.
While many brands are great at this, it can be hard to do in practice as this isn’t generally how our society functions. It may take baby steps for you and your business to ensure that all of the people you’re exchanging with from your accountant, your project management platform, the actual supplier of your goods, and everyone along that chain aligns with your values. You may not ever get there completely, but it’s a great goal to work towards and something I think the average business owner doesn’t typically think about.
5. Hire Marginalized Folks
Hire marginalized people and give them an opportunity to fucking kick ass. That applies to women, black people, indigenous people, people of color, Asian Americans, trans people, people who don’t often have opportunities, the same economic power.
Hire them! By all means, hire them and give them a voice in your company. Amplify their voices, promote them, mentor them, co-create with them, listen to them, get out of their way, & PAY THEM WELL! This is a huge way that you can impact someone on a one-to-one basis.
And this doesn’t just apply to your employees, the same goes for contractors and vendors. It’s tough to run a business totally solo; every person you work with from your video editor, your virtual assistant, your social media coordinator, think of everyone in your business’s food chain can as someone you can deliberately spend money with to improve their lives and community.
For example, there’s been a resurgence of enthusiasm to support black-owned businesses in terms of where you spend your money in your life, and you can do the same thing with your business. Hiring black service providers is a fucking awesome way to support the Black community.
When supporting a business, you’re putting money into someone else’s business to support their family, their economic success, and help build their business and hopefully their generational wealth down the road. Being mindful of who you’re hiring all across the board is a straightforward way to make a long-term impact.
6. Pay A Living Wage!
This leads so nicely into number six: pay a living wage! Whether you’re talking about contractors or vendors, or certainly your employees, one of the simplest ways to make a direct economic impact in someone’s life is to pay them well and fairly. Help break cycles of poverty, desperation, exploitation, and all of those things that are wrong with capitalism and business. As business owners, we have a responsibility and an opportunity NOT to be a part of that cycle.
Treat people fairly, treat people with empathy and humanity, and pay them what they’re worth!
7. Say No to Manipulative Marketing
My last tip for making a social impact with your business is to say no to manipulative marketing. This is a topic I could talk about for so long, and I’ll probably make a video about it in the future.
If you’re not familiar, most of the marketing and sales tactics that have been traditionally taught (especially in this very masculine, white male-dominated world) are extremely aggressive and often really manipulative. (Check out this post on “bro marketing” or one of my favorite podcasts, Business Without the Buts for more). They rely on people making urgent decisions based on fake scarcity, making people feel shamed or preying on people’s vulnerable emotions and fears, and all of these things that psychologically actually work, but at what cost? Frankly, they’re pretty terrible.
Lately, there’s been a counter-movement to promote more ethical, compassionate, non-manipulative marketing, where you treat people like human beings. Maybe you understand their problems or their fears or their emotions or their vulnerabilities, but you don’t use that against them.
This is a practice I want to promote with all of my clients and hopefully with you. It’s something you may not have even known was a thing because these ways of speaking and selling are so ingrained in our culture. Still, it’s a cycle that we have the opportunity to break. We can change that culture not to attack and manipulate each other to make a profit; A culture where we’re not exploiting people. That is part of being responsible and ethical with your business and finding that middle ground between capitalism and humanity that I hope really, truly exists out there.
Wondering Where to Start? Anywhere!
If you’re trying to make a social impact with your business, just start somewhere. It is so easy to get so overwhelmed with not knowing how to start or not feeling like the steps you’re taking are big enough because they’re never going to solve the issue you care so much about. And then you do nothing. It’s this analysis paralysis, and that is what we don’t want. That is the absolute worst thing that you could do.
So, start with something, even if it is a tiny step and then build from there. Continue to listen, learn and unlearn, like I am doing all the time, and you will grow. You will find new opportunities to get better. Some of your methods may change. You may fuck up, I’m sure I will, but you will grow and get better because we’re all works in progress. But you have to keep progressing to create change.
If you take these actions consistently and steadily over time, it will become part of your brand, culture, and hopefully your community, the people around you, and your customer base. Ideas spread, so the more we talk about these things, the more we make them second nature, and the more we can make a cultural shift that will have a ripple effect and affect change.
Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas. Drop a comment and let me know what you’re considering or if you already do any of these in your business. Let’s just keep this conversation going because I’m so passionate about businesses that do well while doing good.
Until next time, stay badass!
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