August 26, 2013

3 Ways Business Can Make a Difference. ~ Drew Kobb

We don’t always associate business with community improvement, instead relegating that responsibility in our minds to non-profit and charitable organizations.

And perhaps with good reason: too often the news is peppered with stories about the latest corruption in businesses around the world. However, as one of the most pervasive and influential parts of our daily lives, local businesses can—and should—have a profound (positive) effect on their communities.

Though the lifeblood of any business is revenue, profit does not necessarily mean the sacrifice of quality or improvement. In fact, the best businesses have built their foundations on these core values.

If you are a businessman/woman, entrepreneur, or simply a community-minded citizen, check out these ways you can promote positive change and value in your areas through business.

1. Go Green

I know, I know, with everyone and their dog touting the benefits of recycling and the plight of baby seals off the coasts of Russia, going green is almost cliché these days. But, even though the movement has gained widespread popularity and momentum in recent years, it is still an important way that businesses (not to mention individuals) can make a meaningful difference in the world.

Take Dawn dishwashing soap. You’ve seen the commercials. Dawn is the frontrunner of dish soaps in the campaign to save wildlife affected by oil spills. The company has partnered with the nonprofit wildlife organization, International Bird Rescue (IBR), and The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) to support efforts in rescuing marine animals, conserving natural habitats, and promoting the health of the oceans.

They have found a way to not only promote their brand and create a campaign that people would be eager to support, but they have simultaneously used that project to preserve the environment and save over 75,000 marine animals.

That’s a win-win if I ever saw one!

But don’t worry. You don’t have to be a huge corporation to make a difference or help the environment. Simple sustainable business practices such as recycling and energy reduction policies can both improve local and national environments as well as help increase your bottom line. And the more we each do our part, the better off we all will be.

2. Do Good

Making money can be a cutthroat business, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do some good while you’re at it. Many companies, both large and small, find ways to give back.

This can be through monetary donations to local, national, or international organizations, or it can be as simple as starting a company-wide volunteer initiative. Whether your company provides its own volunteer network or gives incentives to join a local organization, service can start with business.

Or, for the creative and visionary folks out there, you can use your business as its own vehicle for progress. In other words, model the business itself to provide goods or services directly intended to better society.

One example of a company that does this is Tom’s shoes.

The company based its foundation on the “One for One” mission. Their platform establishes that for every pair of shoes purchased, one pair will be donated to children in Africa. This model has since expanded along with their products to include tote bags and eyewear. Thus, when you buy a bag, they donate a book. When you purchase glasses, they provide sight for one person (through prescription glasses, surgery, or medical treatments on a case by case basis).

Whether through the products themselves, or as an integrative part of your company culture, your business can do good on any scale.

3. Support the Community

Finally, businesses can improve the world by simply supporting their local communities. Real change happens at the grass-roots level. It occurs when individuals work together in their local areas to improve each other’s lives. Saving the oceans and feeding starving children in Africa are obviously good things, but it all starts at the local level.

Businesses have a wealth of opportunity when it comes to supporting the community. Often this comes in the form of local partnerships and volunteer programs. Local businesses can work together with the community center, the local parks and rec group, or local charities to improve their area and build their communities.

Successful entrepreneurs Rick Schaden and Tom Ryan have made their names by creating restaurants and food chains that raise the bar in terms of quality and value. Schaden and Ryan founded Tom’s Urban 24, a contemporary diner located in downtown Denver, CO. Tom’s is one establishment that has truly embraced what it means to support a community.

All of their food is locally sourced from thirty locations around Colorado. This makes their business environmentally friendly (reducing costs for shipping food across the country) and supports local business and economy—something we all need a little help with these days.

So yes, business can be competitive industry. But competition doesn’t automatically exclude service. Whether your role in business is in an executive or employee capacity, we all can find ways to add value to our local and global communities.


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Assistant Ed: Dana Gornall / Ed: Catherine Monkman

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