In the past, businesses could get by if they had a great product or service. However, modern consumers are increasingly looking for companies that care about social issues and have a positive impact. According to a 2019 Aflac survey, 77% of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies committed to making the world better. Social purpose now plays a huge role in the decisions of consumers, and businesses need to accommodate that.
As a business owner or employee, it is imperative that you understand what social purpose is and why it is essential in the modern market. In this blog, you will learn all about the basics of social purpose, why businesses with it excel, and why your business needs it to succeed in 2023.
What is Social Purpose?
Trying to define social purpose can be tricky, but it can be summed up as being closely aligned with and striving towards social, political, or environmental causes. Businesses or brands with a social purpose work and advocate for causes they believe in, such as diversity, environmental conservation, justice reform, etc. It is intrinsically tied to their business and is just as important as profit.
It’s important to distinguish between social purpose and a company’s mission or their corporate social responsibility (CSR). Social purpose is tied deeply within the company. It is not a vision, mission statement, legal responsibility, or even goal. It is tied directly to the core of the company, being essential to the business model and company culture, as well as a never ending pursuit towards those beliefs. While CSR is more short term, profit driven, and goal oriented, social purpose is a fundamental part of the business. The best way to truly understand what it is however is by looking at examples.
What is the Difference Between Social Purpose and Social Responsibility?
Maybe your company has committed to acts of social responsibility for years. Perhaps you’ve switched to hybrid or remote operations and reduced your carbon footprint. But social purpose and social responsibility, while similar, differ in scope and in reach.
It isn’t about just benefitting your stakeholders or checking off a philanthropic to-do list. Instead, think of social purpose as your company’s social mission – it’s what you stand for and how you plan to improve the world around you. Then take it a step further – social purposes are more than just mission statements; they’re a core piece of your company’s way of life every day.
Why Your Business Should Have a Social Purpose
Outside of the obvious moral and ethical reasons a business should have social purpose, there are numerous other benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the full spectrum of benefits that a well-defined social purpose can have for everyone involved–and for the greater good, too, of course!
Reputation and Trust
Continually standing by your word and having a positive social impact helps build trust with your customers and consumers at-large. Companies like Patagonia have earned the trust and support of their customers by being such staunch environmental advocates for years on end. This sort of trust encourages customers to support your business directly, as well as the causes the business supports.
In turn, this helps your company develop a reputation in the marketplace. Even if people don’t buy Patagonia clothes, they probably know about Patagonia’s activism. Having a reputation as a company that is a net-positive will help with brand recognition, trust, sales, and more.
Social purpose is a great way to keep employees more motivated, passionate, and involved with the company. Building a team around a common cause, such as giving back to local schools, diversity, inclusion, or empathy training, can help keep your team focused and united around your goals. It can also help you attract employees, as people will want to work for a company that aligns with their worldview. You can also incorporate social responsibility and corporate responsibility with team building events, serving as a great opportunity to rally your team around a good cause.
Another benefit of social purpose that many businesses overlook is community impact. Businesses play a very important role in our communities, often taking a leadership role. When focusing on goals like healthcare access or environmental conservation, businesses can have a direct positive impact on the lives of people in the communities they serve. Whether that be through volunteering, donations, internal initiatives, or fundraisers, businesses should always make an effort to better their communities. On top of being a morally good thing to do, it can also drive sales from customers who want to support companies that support their community.
By this point, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that social purpose can have financial benefits too. While many may see it as something that serves to lower profits in favor of social causes, that is not necessarily the case. Having a clear social purpose that your company has stood by time and time again can attract more customers and better your bottom line.
As mentioned, modern consumers place an emphasis on a company’s social beliefs, goals, and policies, driving more sales towards companies who care about the world. Younger consumers in particular are more likely to purchase from brands and companies that support causes they are passionate about. However, the financial benefits can go beyond sales.
Social purpose can drive companies to innovate in their industry, resulting in more profit. For example, beer manufacturer SABMiller focuses on sustainable water usage. Though there is the obvious environmental goal of ensuring there is clean water for generations to come, it also benefits their manufacturing process. In working to decrease their own water usage, they are furthering their goal of sustainability while decreasing their production costs at the same time.
How to Incorporate Social Purpose into your Company
Incorporating social purpose into your company can seem overwhelming, especially if your company doesn’t currently put much focus on social issues. However, it is still possible for you to take initiative and make it an integral part of your company.
1. Analyze your company.
Your social purpose needs to be something that is directly tied to the nature of your business. For example, if you’re a car manufacturer, your social purpose might be related to renewable energy sources. If you’re a clothing company, it might be tied to sustainable materials. Take time to think about your company carefully and what social cause is directly related to your company.
Consider using the following questions to gauge what they feel would best define your social purpose:
- What does our company stand for?
- How can our mission help our local community and beyond?
- Which social causes are you all passionate about on the local, national, or global level?
- How do you feel our company could give back to society in a meaningful way?
2. Act on your social purpose.
Once you’ve identified your purpose, it’s time to put it into action. You need to make your social purpose a fundamental part of your company. That may mean changing suppliers, making policy changes, donating a percentage of profits, working with grassroots activists, etc. The key however is that you are backing up the statements you make. Be consistent with your actions and support, and don’t give up on your social purpose.
3. Make sure your social purpose is fully integrated.
Another important part of incorporating social purpose is to make sure it is implemented at all levels of the company, from the bottom to the top. It’s easy for executives to make statements and donate money, but it’s harder to get your entire organization on board and galvanized around the cause. Team building activities, such as a charity bike build, can be a great way to instill your social purpose to your employees.
Remote Social Purpose Initiatives
Does your team live in multiple locations? No problem! You’re already cutting your company’s carbon footprint through your remote work. But if you want to take it a step further and include environmental efforts in your social purpose, consider Impact Online as an ideal vehicle for your remote team to make a difference.
4. Set Clear Short-Term & Long-Term Goals
Once you identify the causes and initiatives that will best help your company fulfill its social purpose, you’ll then want to create realistic short-term and long-term goals. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of setting goals as you work together for the greater good:
- Setting social goals can be a source of motivation that can also influence your team’s work performance.
- Goals serve as a reminder that your team is working together to achieve a particular outcome (even if your team can’t yet see the impact of your efforts).
- They will keep everyone focused on the purpose of these initiatives, and the potential impact you all could make.
- Reinforces the sentiment that there is nothing your team can’t achieve when you work together.
Incorporate Professional Development into Your Social Purpose Goals
Your employees only work a set number of hours each day. The rest of the time, they’re active or participating members of their local community. Their involvement in the company’s social purpose endeavors will, no doubt, influence many of their soft skills, such as empathy, team communication, leadership abilities, problem-solving, professionalism, and more.
Consider choosing initiatives that will not only benefit the community but also offer your employees a professional development opportunity. The Do Good Bus corporate charity event or Tools for Schools event will allow them to collaborate as a team and practice professionalism and effective communication as they work with worthy causes in their community.
Brands with a Social Purpose
Here are some examples of brands with a social purpose. These brands all have clear social commitments that are directly linked with who they are a business and are purpose driven, so take note on how these brands have integrated their social purpose with everything they do.
Ben & Jerry’s
One of the most iconic brands with a social purpose is the beloved Ben & Jerry’s. They make great ice cream, and they were founded with the intent of furthering a variety of social causes. A brief look at their website reveals the long list of issues that the company is directly involved in. They support the movements around voting rights, campaign finance reform, racial justice, climate reform, and LGBTQ+ rights. But how does all that actually come into play in terms of operations?
Ben & Jerry’s actions as a company can be traced directly to their social beliefs. For example, the company is a proud advocate for diversity and racial justice reform. But instead of just vocalizing their beliefs, they follow through with action. On top of supporting minority employees on all levels of their business, they have a values led approach to sourcing products.
They have committed to grow the number of black-owned and black-led suppliers they use every year. They also support independent farmers with a focus on the welfare of farmers, their local community, the welfare of animals, and the environmental impact of agriculture. Ben & Jerry’s beliefs inform and influence every part of what they do as a company, making them a great example of what social purpose really looks like.
Another well-known example of a brand with social purpose is Patagonia. The company made headlines last year when the owner transferred the company to a trust and non-profit that will use all the company’s profits towards combating climate change and preserving undeveloped land. There are few companies with a social purpose clearer than Patagonia.
Patagonia’s social purpose can be seen in every aspect of their business. In terms of materials, they only use organic cotton, only use responsibly sourced down, and 89% of their fabrics are made with their preferred, environmentally friendly materials. They “tax” themselves an extra 1% for the preservation and restoration of the environment, as well as encouraging other businesses to do the same.
You could spend hours going over all of the ways Patagonia’s business practices stays true to their social beliefs, but the thing to note here is how closely related their social purpose is to who they are as a business. Patagonia sells outdoor gear for hikers, rock climbers, backpackers, and more—people who spend a lot of time in nature and are likely to be passionate about conserving it. Environmentalism goes hand in hand with the outdoors products Patagonia sells and their customers, making their corporate social purpose a perfect fit.
Get Started With Social Purpose
Social purpose is an essential part of being a successful business in the modern world. Customers want to support businesses that care about social issues and having a strong social purpose can have numerous benefits to your business. From customer trust and improved reputation to motivated employees and increased sales, it is a great way to better your business.
Besides the direct business benefits, having a social purpose is also just a good thing for the world. We are all here together, and we should all be working towards a better future. It is a way that you can join the effort alongside your business, helping make a difference in the world.
If you’re unsure of where to start, don’t worry. Our charitable and CSR events are a great way to get started on working towards a social purpose while team building at the same time. Get in touch with us to schedule team bonding events that can help you identify, work towards, and take action on your social purpose as a business.