Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seems to be something that is relegated to medium and large corporations. Could startups do CSR? In the melee of trying to acquire customers, bring revenue, stabilize the product / service, and scale the business is it even possible to think about CSR?
It may be very difficult, if not impossible.
But what if all Startups began as inherently socially responsible businesses? At a time when we want more medium and large corporations to become socially conscious and responsible, does it not make sense to imbibe these qualities in the newly springing entrepreneurial ventures?
Whatever be the nature of your business, adhering to these 4 simple and commercially beneficial guidelines might make yours a socially responsible Startup.
1. Being immensely useful
Businesses aim to create value, serve a unique need for the society. That is how they make themselves indispensible to the society. If you are starting up, think again about this need and the value. How pressing is the need? How would your business solution impact and transform the life of your customers? What then, is the ultimate goal of your business?
If you have not done it already, capture the above in a short and meaningful vision statement for your business. Check out these vision statements:
Disney – “To make people happy”
Apple (back in the early days when they were Apple Computer) .A computer in the hands of everyday people
Ikea -“To create a better every day life for the many people”
You may be surprised to see that your vision statement not only sounds humane, but also that it is inherently socially conscious.
Record it, publicize it, and internalize it.
Let this vision be your guiding light for developing and growing your business. That would keep the original social intent intact and make sure that the business that you started stays true to the ultimate goal of serving the society.
2. Being inclusive
Social enterprises (which is the name we want to call all businesses in future ,there should be no such thing as an asocial enterprise) are called that because they aim to maximize social impact to enhance the quality of life of the larger society.
When your vision is to serve a pressing need for the society, try to make sure that its beneficiaries (your potential customers) are from all walks of life. When developing your product or service, design it for a larger populace. By merely allowing more people to participate, you may be able to create a positive impact in the lives of your customers in ways you may not imagine.
Mobile phones created a big social impact improving the livelihoods of people in the sub-Saharan Africa. It is interesting to note that prior to introduction of mobile phones, people in those remote regions had never used a telephone.
3. Building products that last longer
Design your product to last longer. Building for a use-and-throw consumer culture is being socially and environmentally apathetic, and produces more waste. The average lifetime of a hand phone is 18 months in developed countries. Why should it be that way? Old generation cars were made to last long. Some of us still care for our old fountain pens (passed down, perhaps, from the old generation)
If your product is a service or a piece of software, strive to make it device independent. That means your software is not tied to a particular feature of a device that may be upgraded or become obsolete. Anyone using your product must be able to do so for a longer period of time despite the churn rate of devices.
4. Building a culture of ethics
Work to create and build a strong culture one where you are resolutely ethical in your operations. Make it business as usual.
A socially responsible company today must, at a minimum, keep their supply-chain clean, optimize the use of natural resources, make sure the product does not impact the environment in a negative way throughout its life-cycle, treat people with respect and fairness, have clean and open business practices, and abide by the law of the land.
To summarize: Solve a real problem or serve a pressing need; do it for a larger section of the society; design for longevity; be resolutely ethical while doing these.
Do you have more ideas that could help build a socially responsible Startup? Share it!