Have you ever gone to buy a product that you were happy to pay for, at a price you thought was fair, from a company that you respect, and then learned that a portion of your purchase price was going towards a cause you care about? The last time this happened to me, the purchase not only made me feel good about myself, it also inspired instant brand loyalty.
When I started ABLE Interventions to address some of the issues I see in my own family and other families in the autism community, I also wanted a business model that addressed that feeling of doing good in the world.
Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for awhile, here are a few ways to work social responsibility into your company.
1. Create an offering that directly addresses a social problem or supports a cause.
I recently discovered a man in India who has been dubbed Menstrual Man for creating a machine that manufactures low-cost feminine hygiene products. He sells the machine to women in rural villages. These women make menstrual pads for themselves, the women in their families and then sell pads to other women in their village for income. This product addresses two enormous needs: one is the need for affordable feminine hygiene products, and the other is a source of income for the women in rural villages.
2. Use your employment practices to make a difference.
Choosing to employ people from groups that traditionally have high rates of unemployment, such as people with disabilities, veterans or disadvantaged youths, is another way to support a social cause aligned with your business. Employers who hire people within certain targeted groups may also be eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit during the first year of employment. (Specialisterne and Extraordinary Ventures are examples of companies built around employing a segment of the autism community.)
3. Donate a portion of each sale, or a portion of net income, to an established charity.
A good way to effectively donate is to select a charity in close alignment with your business, so potential customers will be interested in the charity, and also so that established donors will become interested in your business. A construction company might choose Habitat for Humanity. A dentist might choose Operation Smile. A florist might choose Roses for Autism.
4. Partner with a charity on a particular project that benefits both the charity and your business through the association.
For example, I love the TOMS One for One program, which provides a pair of shoes for a child in need for every pair of shoes sold. This company was established with this end goal in mind and has since expanded to having more than 100 giving partners to provide not only shoes, but also sight and water services around the world.
5. Establish your own giving back program.
It is possible that there are things in your community that you would like to address directly by establishing a fund. For example, dedicating a portion of sales that would enable giving directly to people affected by a particular problem. Perhaps scholarships or grants for education or particular trainings.
In my own business, my co-founder Dr. Kristen Byra and I started out with the intention of using two of these methods; first by creating offerings that directly address demonstrated needs in the autism community, like the book we co-authored, "Help! My Child Has Autism! A Parent's Guide to Start, Fund and Maintain an Evidence-Based Intervention", which walks parents through the process of funding and establishing home-based therapy programs, and secondly, through the ABLE Interventions Giving Back Program which we’re rolling out soon. Through this program a portion of company revenue will go into a grant fund to help families pay for unavoidable, out-of-pocket expenses relating to diagnostics, trainings and establishing and maintaining evidence-based interventions for children with autism.
Almost any business can benefit from socially responsible business practices. If there is a cause close to your heart that is also closely aligned with your business, why not show the world what your business is made of?
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