How it all starts: with Values and Commitment
This reflection has brought me back to my roots with strengthened conviction.
When I started on my career, for-profit social enterprises were just emerging as a strategy or concept.
- Ben & Jerry had just launched Cherry Garcia;
- Gary Hirschberg & Samuel Kaymen launched Stoneyfield Yogurt to raise money for their organic agriculture school;
- I got my start doing accounting for Cooperative Home Care Associates; then, a start-up home care agency with 50 home health aides in the Bronx.
They are very different examples, but each company had a clear purpose from it’s first day.
In the years since, each company has become tremendously profitable and has led its respective industry with a focus on reducing environmental impact, committing to ethical sourcing, and treating their workers and communities with respect. Through four presidential administrations, and some harsh policy changes, each company continued to create change in their communities and industries.
These companies provide my definition of social entrepreneurship. Their examples reinforce my commitment to supporting, strengthening and championing success of for-profit mission-driven companies.
Fast Forward to 2017
- Will spend more on brands that support causes they care about (Neilson Global Social Responsibility Report),
- Take jobs and stay in companies that support causes they care about (Fast Company: What do Millennial Employees Really Want?)
- Believe that the overall top priority for any business should be “to improve society.” (World Economic Forum via Forbes).
Entrepreneurs are of course on trend; virtually everyone launching a business has a passion and vision for doing good in the world. But there is often a big gap between intention and social impact.
Owners of small companies juggle many important (and competing) demands – how can you spare the time, money and brain-power to develop, track and improve your social impact? This is why I work with companies like yours to build profitability: so you can deepen the social impact of your work and company.
- Create a company mission statement that makes your values and vision clear, then build your mission into your brand and your products or services.
- Set measurable impact goals for each year and quarter: keep them in view right beside your sales and operations targets.
- Make social impact part of your culture and processes. Communicate your values, mission and impact goals to everyone who joins your team including consultants, contractors and employees.
- Join the Club – Pick a social impact business group, join it, and declare your impact.
While the first three steps may be obvious, it’s the fourth step that actually makes the real difference in closing the gap between intention and impact.
Like any other goal worth pursuing; a social impact target is more likely to be met if it is clear and transparent -- and if you are held accountable by someone (peers, mentors, business partners, or a coach).
Joining a group of leaders committed to building companies for both profit and social impact is the best way to sustain motivation, reinforce determination and find new inspiration for social good.
New York City Economic Development Corporation and a global non-profit called B Corporation can help you get to that next level. They have launched a competition for companies to be the Best For NYC! To be part of the action just take a short survey, pledge to improve your company and join the competition.
If you’re not in NYC -- just go directly to B Corporation, take the full assessment (its free) and you’ll get a detailed report showing how your company can begin to improve across 3 dimensions: environment, corporate governance and community/workforce policies.
I took the pledge in December and today I am proud and happy to add the Best for NYC badge to CFO on Speed Dial’s homepage.
Specifically in 2017 CFO on Speed Dial will:
1) Contribute 5% of profits to social justice organizations
2) Increase contracts with local and underserved contractors; and
3) Track social impact measures for CFO on Speed Dial and each of our clients so that both the company and client companies will have clear and transparent results for each goal.
Now its your turn, What social impact are you committed to in 2017? Comment below and join Best for NYC here: http://bestfor.nyc/