You go about your everyday business, you make your product to the best standards of quality, you sell it at a competitive cost, and you have done your job. You are returning value to your investors, and that’s your role, right? Well, not exactly. By nature of being in business, you have much more responsibility than just selling product.
For example, what if you sell food? The impact is huge. You are feeding the world. You are sustenance, you are nutrition, you are life. You have a much bigger job. You have inserted yourself as part of the food chain. You have a responsibility to be aware of your social impact on the public.
Look around, and start to get some idea of the ecosystem inside which you operate. In the coming years, we have an impending drinkable water shortage, enormous cost increases in proteins, a heavy draw on corn or wheat, the tremendous environmental impact of processing beef, growing obesity and the associated diseases. You must be part of the public discourse. A socially aware company is obligated to participate in the solutions. Below, I am suggesting four simple steps to ignite your social consciousness:
Pick a flag to bear. There is so much out there that needs to be addressed. If you are able to bring potable water to the masses, plant crops in under-served regions of the world, or open shop in the “food desserts” of the inner city, pick a cause and be very open in your support. As a company, your advocacy for the cause will bring greater awareness and further the cause. Pick up the flag and carry it up the hill.
Make social awareness part of your culture. Your team can be an engaged army of socially aware members of society. Give special time off for social projects, encourage participation at all levels, reward those who give of themselves. It is not okay to solely have an environment of “just do your job”. In today’s society, you have got to give something back.
Improve your impact. Yes, your products have an impact on society. If you can invest in the technology to lessen the fat content of your food, then it is your imperative to improve the health impact. If you can eradicate trans fats or high fructose corn syrup, and maintain or improve taste, then do it. If you can package your product with less cardboard, then do it. Finding a way to improve your impact on society is part of the social contract.
Look at emerging countries holistically. Emerging countries, especially those in Africa, should not be entered solely for the purpose of selling more product. Of course you’ll sell more, but these countries need so much more. They need infrastructure, they need security, they need an educational system, they need jobs. When you enter a society that needs more than your product, it is imperative upon you to help contribute to their overall improvement of quality of life. Entering an emerging market should be seen as a two-way road.
As companies in this world, we have such a tremendous opportunity to embrace how we impact society, how we improve the social environment, how we can make a better world. The stage is set and the curtain is rising!