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The Social Good Dilemma for Businesses

By 3p Contributor

By Clementina Oliveras

Given the current political climate and recent changes made under the new administration, Americans are actively looking for ways to make a difference and stand up for causes they are passionate about.

Data shows a majority of consumers will go out of their way to support a business that they believe backs a worthy cause, making it a vital time for brands and companies to not only voice their stance on current issues, but also implement methods to make a difference in a socially responsible way. Businesses must focus on growing their companies from the inside out, attracting both socially responsible customers and employees.

In response to the desires of today’s consumers, we’re seeing businesses jump on the corporate social responsibility trend at a rapid clip, following the lead of business giants like Google and Microsoft by investing in leaders who will step up as advocates and problem-solvers regardless of political change. By raising the bar of commitment to sustainability and responsibility, we are beginning to see companies alter their business models entirely in order to incorporate more social responsibility in the workplace.

Lyft recently announced a new program that gives riders the opportunity to round their fare price up to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to a charity of their choice. As more companies find ways to get involved in worthy causes, others that ignore the social good shift may soon take a hit on the talent they look to attract and retain.

In fact, according to a recent study, 91 percent of millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause -- demonstrating that CSR is not only a good idea, but it's now vital to a brand’s success. Even further, the Cone Communications survey found that 62 percent of millennials would be willing to take a pay cut in order to work for a socially responsible company. This demonstrates that there is not only a desire to support social causes, but also that millennials are willing to dedicate their life's work to making a difference.

Businesses like Uber that haven’t been as involved in this wave of social change have been bashed and widely discredited by consumers who are committed to using fair and responsible services, ultimately resulting in the deadly #DeleteUber campaign that consumed the Internet in January. Movements as drastic as disassociating with a brand entirely stemmed from the outcome of the 2016 election, and social concerns have spilled into various cultures, communities and companies across the country.

Political change calls for cultural change

As the number of organizations negatively affected by the new administration increases, (such as TerraCycle, KultureCity, and Veterans Health Administration) the number of businesses looking to create change will grow.

While many companies focus specifically on CSR programs as a way to give back, this is only a single component of their overall business. But many other organizations build their entire business models around supporting nonprofit organizations. In fact, “cause” sponsorship is predicted to reach $2.06 billion in 2017, an increase of 3.6 percent from 2016.

Look at Toms Shoes, for example. The company was one of the first to mainstream the one-for-one business model, where for each product a consumer buys, a comparable product is donated to a charitable cause. Off the success of Toms’ model, many other brands have continued to adopt a similar strategy. This Bar Saves Lives and Warby Parker are two other companies that were fundamentally built on the idea that consumers will do (or pay) a little more to make a big change.

Since the company’s creation twelve years ago, Toms has put shoes on over 10 million needy children. And Warby Parker donated 500,000 pairs of glasses to those in need all around the world in just three years.

It is abundantly clear that the success of these companies is a direct result of consumers’ desire to support a worthy cause and transform traditional corporate standards and practices for the better.

There is room for this type of company in every industry, especially in those built around environmental and cultural assets like the travel industry. According to research we conducted at my company, Wander, over half (55 percent) of consumers have made a socially responsible purchase in the last year. Social consciousness is even more prevalent among travelers, with a whopping 83 percent of travelers making socially conscious choices on their trips. It’s clear that people are looking to make an impact, and just need the chance.

Millennials expect corporate cultural change

As corporations look to hire college graduates, it is imperative to integrate socially responsible business models into their organizations in order to gain the trust of new talent. Social responsibility is no longer just a trend, but a lifestyle and ultimately a “deal-breaker” for millennials in the workplace. With many industries beginning to fully integrate CSR programs and sustainable business models into their organizations, it is essential for businesses to develop these initiatives in order to stay current and attract the attention of millennials searching for ways to give back.

Companies that are aware of these needs are tailoring their business models to reflect this desire for social good in all aspects of everyday life, making this choice to do social good an easy one.

Millennials are consciously making socially responsible decisions -- whether at home, at the office or on vacation. And businesses offering them the choice to do good will greatly benefit and allow their brands to grow successfully.

Businesses are leading the way by ultimately offering a sustainable and socially responsible lifestyle. From corporations standing as public advocates for those in need, to businesses offering jobs that incorporate social good, to companies offering services that provide the user a chance to give back, our world would be a whole lot more connected if we all chose to give a little more.

Image courtesy of Wander 

Clementina Oliveras is the founder of Wander. With a background in Economics and Sustainable Tourism, Clementina has been involved in making her dreams come true. First with a boutique hotel built from scratch in La Riviera Maya, Mexico, that run for 7 years and now with a higher purpose of building a socially responsible business. She drives Wander and the team with determination; passion and pushes to make things happen to turn Wander into a successful adventure.

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