The assets of your business traditionally include property, plant, equipment, and your customer base. Progressive organizations understand that business assets also include their good reputation, responsiveness to change, the ability to conduct a constructive dialogue with stakeholders, the ability to take advantage of networked resources, and a host of other non-traditional assets. Companies are increasingly adopting socially responsible business practices based on sustainable development to ensure efficiency, stimulate innovation, and create top-line growth. This “new” approach to business must reach into every area of the organization to ensure that goals and objectives are in alignment with the mission. To begin the discovery process, ask yourself these questions:
1. Is the organization managed with an emphasis on being socially progressive? Today’s progressive organization understands what it means to be socially responsible and how that contributes to the welfare of the organization. Leadership must prioritize values and initiatives and incorporate them into the agenda in a way that is in harmony with the overall objectives of the organization. At this point, this “new” agenda must be communicated so that all concerned can progress it forward.
2. Does the organization operate using a cost vs. benefit approach taking into consideration intrinsic and consequential costs/benefits? Some may think that emphasizing social responsibility will be a financial drain on the organization too great to overcome. If that were the case, there would be no case for this new approach to management. Costs must be weighed against benefits – not just obvious costs or benefits. Benefits include increased productivity, customer loyalty, innovation, and countless others.
3. Are the finances of the operation managed to ensure long-term prosperity for all concerned? Risk is inherent in the business world. A business must invest in itself and its future, evaluating the risk of experimentation and development. Without continuing investment the organization is sure to stagnate, with too much emphasis on growth and development there is an abundance of waste. The organization just can’t keep up. To establish long-term prosperity, the financial plan must emphasize growth in a sustainable way.
4. Are printed marketing materials and packaging designed to minimally impact the environment? This is a great way to get the process started. Evaluating how the company presents itself in the marketplace can provide immediate opportunities to progress the social responsibility agenda. Making appropriate modifications to packaging is a quick way to gain some exposure and momentum. The entire life cycle of production materials and packaging should be considered and designs modified to minimize the environmental impact.
5. How has product development served to foster innovation and take advantage of advanced technology? The progressive organization is continually improving its processes, systems, and designs. Competition is fast to respond, so there is no time to sit around and wait for the next move. The services or products produced must always be ready to evolve to the next level of usefulness. With an infrastructure that prioritizes creativity and innovation, the company is always ahead of the pack.
6. Does the organization strive to get to know and understand its customers and their needs? The socially responsible organization recognizes that it must contribute to the welfare of its customers and meet needs in a way that improves their lives. Sometimes this improvement is highly visible and other times you must stretch a bit to fully comprehend it. Either way, there should be identifiable positive results for customers choosing to make use of the organization’s products or services.
7. Are individuals encouraged to increase competency and enhance their skill set to better serve the socially responsible organization? An organization’s people are one of its greatest assets. Each staff member has the potential to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. From the front line to top management, the organization’s people must be encouraged to participate directly in strategic thinking and progressing the agenda. Staff should be encouraged and rewarded for pursuing professional development opportunities that make them more valuable and versatile.
8. What considerations were incorporated into the organization’s facilities to stimulate creativity? The work environment contributes positively or negatively to productivity and creativity. The organization’s people spend the majority of their waking hours in the workplace. There is a tremendous opportunity to use this time to stimulate the creative process and establish an environment that fosters harmonious interactions. From color schemes, to ergonomic furniture, or the use of advanced technology, the organization’s facilities should be given appropriate consideration.
9. How has technology been employed to bring the organization closer to its customers, suppliers, and internal resources? The world wide web has reduced our farthest neighbor to the “boy next door”. We have the ability to provide our customers, suppliers and internal concerns with access to information and a convenient method of communication that 10 years ago would not have been imagined. Customers and suppliers are literally a click away. By using technology wisely, we can provide them with the information they need to help us serve them better or vice versa.
10. Has the organization studied and demonstrated that it understands how it contributes to the global marketplace? Every organization contributes to the global marketplace in some way. There is a chain of influence that needs to be understood to fully embrace the importance of incorporating social responsibility initiatives into an organization’s mission. You can begin by tracing your product or service as it moves through its life cycle. As you begin to recognize how even a small change can accumulate and make a global difference, you will be inspired to take an intentional first step towards social responsibility.
The Top 10 Questions for Socially Responsible Leaders have been excerpted from a FREE Report “40 Questions for Socially Responsible Leaders” available at http://www.WholisticBusiness.com. At Wholistic Business, we believe that business literally makes the world go around. It will be business owners and managers that will ultimately change the world for the better. By incorporating a new set of values and priorities into what has proven to be a successful formula on many levels, we believe that business will be the platform for a new agenda – the Social Responsibility Agenda.
Regardless of the size of your business, you make a contribution to the global marketplace that impacts humanity with a rippling effect. As an organization’s leader, you choose whether that ripple will be felt positively or negatively. Even a small movement or change in a socially responsible direction can have a dramatic effect. Every day produces a new opportunity for change!