Socially Responsible Small Business: Cost or Cure?

Whether it’s “people, planet, profit” or “ethics, environment and equity” or green businesssome other catchy alliterative phrase, corporations around the world are embracing the concept of the triple-bottom line (3BL):  it simply makes good business sense to invest in sustainable, socially responsible business practices.

Andy Savitz, author of The Triple Bottom Line: How Today’s Best-Run Companies are Achieving Economic, Social, and Environmental Success — And How You Can Too, defines a sustainable corporation as “one that creates profit for its shareholders while protecting the environment and improving the lives of those with whom it interacts. It operates so that its business interests and the interests of the environment and society intersect.”   Anything not to like there?

Many large corporations have made great strides toward sustainable business models and realized tremendous financial success along the way.  Small and medium organizations staying on the sidelines of this critical shift do so at their peril; these businesses miss important opportunities to differentiate themselves and increase their profitability if they fail to pursue the 3BL.

Surely the need for industry to green itself to prevent damage to the earth is compelling.  And the benefits of philanthropy stand on their own strength, to be sure.  But responsibility to the environment and their local community aside, what business owner’s interest is not peaked by dramatic reductions in utility bills, wasted inventory, and supply costs?  Consumer preferences also factor in, with recent study results showing that 79% of American consumers say supporting a cause affects which companies they want to see doing business in their community, 75% say it affects what they buy or where they shop, and 34% are more likely to buy environmentally responsible products.

There are compelling fiscal imperatives to elevating your business’ social responsibility profile, and the benefits of making a long-term commitment to engage positively in your local community go far beyond the enhanced reputation.