Most small business owners will agree that running a business is about much more than making money. Yes, the bottom line does matter, but being able to help grow your community and actually contribute something to the world is much more rewarding than seeing your profits exceed your expenses. The movement to startup businesses that create more than just a financial impact has really come into its own with the legal recognition of B-Corporations – for-profit corporations that have the dual mission of making their shareholders money as well as a positive impact on society. But all businesses, regardless of structure, can help make the world a better place. If you’d like your business to be one of them, consider taking the following actions.

Get Your Employees Involved

Shoeboxed Team at Creative Food Drive 2012
The Shoeboxed team participates in an annual local food drive each year.

It’s great when an entrepreneur decides to use their startup to make a difference, but it’s even better when everyone on the business’s team is actually involved in that effort. If you truly want your brand to make an impact, you need to incorporate your social mission into every facet of your business. Working for your company should also mean working to help further its philanthropic or environmental efforts. One great way to start that process is to use what has now become a dreaded part of company culture – the team-building exercise. Team-building exercises do work, but they are often unimaginative and boring, and your employees wind up bonding over how much they hate them rather than through the activities themselves. But if you use team-building and bonding to better the community, like by volunteering the company to sponsor a food drive or clean up a park, your employees will be able to get out, stretch, and feel they are doing something meaningful and will bond through the work. After your employees are introduced to this type of service, it will also be easier to make volunteer work a regular part of working for your company.

Partner with Other Sustainable Businesses

You probably aren’t the only startup in town looking to make a difference, and teaming up with other sustainable businesses will create a network that supports the efforts of its members and allows them to tackle problems en masse. Many hands make light work, and the same can be said for businesses with the same outlook as yours – it’s easier to make a positive impact on society when there are more people trying to achieve the same goals you are. Concerted efforts always have a bigger impact and can even inspire others who don’t work within your business to try and change things for the better, too. There is absolutely no reason to go it alone! You may be surprised at how many other businesses share the same ideas you do, all you have to do is reach out to them.

Create Proactive Internal Policies

Paper usage is one of the biggest environmental problems caused by businesses. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year, and most estimates state that one ream of 500 sheets uses up 6% of a tree. If my math is right, that means the average office worker using unrecycled paper will go over a tree’s worth of paper each year. That’s crazy! Even if your office or business uses nowhere near that amount of paper, it is still contributing to a serious environmental problem. Paperless businesses save money, time, and use up fewer resources, so if you haven’t switched over yet, you should strongly consider doing so. You can also implement green internal policies at the workplace – installing dimmer lighting, turning off the A/C and turning on fans instead, using energy efficient light bulbs – but going paperless is one of the best changes you can make to become more environmentally friendly.

Knowing that you run a business that is actually helping its community is a great feeling. While it does require some effort to make a full impact, a social or environmental mission doesn’t have to detract from the day-to-day operations of the workplace. By including your employees in your mission when you can, networking with other like-minded businesses, and adopting proactive internal policies, you’ll quickly find your company positively influencing the wider community and making a material difference in the world. It may not be huge, but every, small, positive change we make is a step in right direction.

How does your business make an impact? Let us know in the comments!

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