Businesses have one job: making money. Making a profit is the thing they’re required by law to do. At the end of the day, if a process or product doesn’t benefit the financial bottom line, it needs to change.
Until now. We’ve entered the consciousness economy, according to Jessica Joines, founder of a company by the same name. We’re more inclined to support local businesses, buy quality goods made with products that are good for us and the environment, or pay for a product where something is donated in return for our purchase. The products we use and wear have long been signifiers of how we project ourselves to those around us, and now we want to show we care about our community by how we spend our money. Not only are our Warby Parker glasses stylish, but they also signify we’re trying to be a good person.
Businesses are catching on and trying to catch up. A social good campaign is a start, but it’s like getting a gift from an uncle on your birthday you don’t hear from the rest of the year. It’s thoughtful, but it doesn’t make you think better or worse of him, and since he doesn’t really know you it’s probably not anything you wanted anyway.
To really become a part (and take advantage) of the consciousness economy, it has to begin with the core values and mission of your business. Social good campaigns, like showing off you donated money to a cause or your employees volunteered for a day or your company bought everyone a puppy shows you have the knowledge of how to treat your employees well or have a general interest in giving back to the community. But it’s like the random gift from an Uncle. Doing good has to be core to your business; rather than painting the kitchen, some businesses need to go back to the foundation.
This all sounds nice and full of warm fuzzies, but warm fuzzies don’t pay the bills. At least you’d think. Marketer’s love the term “millennials,” and for good reason: they’re the single largest generation in American history. And they put their money where their values are. The numbers are still coming in especially considering the financial benefits of doing good are less tangible than hard numbers. However, the idea that brands can and should be a force for good has been popularized enough to establish a new legal status: a public benefit corporation. There are currently 5,000 companies in 30 states that are neither a nonprofit nor a fully for-profit business. Their mission is baked into their business plan and legal status.
Methods for measuring something as abstract is “good” are still being developed, but Andrew Hewitt gave it a shot. There are a variety of factors, but the ones he chose to include are:
Why are you in business?
Is your mission clearly defined and reflected in how you operate?
How you run your business
Do you provide an exceptional work environment?
Do your employees feel empowered?
Is your office earth-friendly?
Are your products, services, and manufacturing processes carbon-neutral, zero waste, and non-toxic?
Are your customers, suppliers, distributors, investors, and community treated well and glad you’re around?
Is your business a platform for spreading environmental awareness?
What your business offers
Does your service or product create a better world?
Again, some of these questions and ideas are nebulous and seemingly difficult to implement, but when thoughtfully considered it’s a good place to start. For example, providing parental leave when employees are expecting is a great way to show they’re valued, creates an exceptional work environment, and allows them to feel empowered. Their worth is beyond what they have to offer between the hours of 9-5, and as an employer you can communicate that in a myriad of ways.
As businesses get bigger, wealthier, and more powerful, smaller companies are constantly looking for an edge. Consumers are willing to pay more for brands and products that mirror their values and that contribute to the greater good. We’re finally recognizing that what benefits the rest of the world benefits each of us individually.
Your mission and values may have the greater good in mind, but is it clearly articulated in your visual identity?