How to Incorporate a Social Mission into your Business

in Strategy & Trends | by Ethan Lyon

how entrepreneurs can integrate a social cause into their brand

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

How committed is your company to your social efforts? Is your social initiative a small side project or the essence of what your company stands for? Incorporating a social mission is about creating a harmony between your company philosophy and passion for social change. There is a spectrum of commitment–some entrepreneurs combine their social and company mission, while others use their company philosophy to define their social mission.

TOMS Shoes has truly incorporated a social mission, by donating a pair shoes for each pair sold–representing 100% of their sales. On the other hand, Ruby Tuesdays exemplifies a social side project, donating a portion of each cookie sold at their restaurants–the lowest dollar item on a big menu. Checking the social mission box like Ruby Tuesdays is better than doing nothing. However, we believe TOMS is capturing the larger opportunity by creating a for-profit company with a social mission in their business model.

Identifying which direction you’re going to take is important when deciding what social mission is right for your business. Whether it’s checking the box or incorporating a social mission into your business model or anything in between, there are several points to consider:

Identify the company mission

Before brainstorming your social mission, identify the essence of your company. What is your core mission? What is your company philosophy? What does your company value? What level of integration will a social mission have on your company mission or visa versa?

For some companies their social mission is completely integrated in their company mission. Take example from The Greyston Bakery. They state: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.” To increase the social welfare in their community, The Greyston Bakery’s mission is to employ local residents. Their social mission and dedication to quality has brought the bakery much success. If you’ve enjoyed brownies from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, top Manhattan restaurants and Whole Foods Market, you’ve enjoyed The Greyston Bakery’s treats.

If you’re company isn’t seeking a fully integrated social mission, consider your company mission and how it can be applied to a social initiative. Take example from Western Union. Their mission is to make connections worldwide—very general statement, making it easy to leverage for a social mission.

Connecting the company mission to a cause

Western Union has done a surprisingly decent job of developing a social initiative that’s in-line with company mission. For a company not well-known for its social efforts, Western Union is an example of how any for-profit business, whether it’s a bank, hotel, shoe company, etc., can effectively use the company mission as a starting point for a social initiative.

Following the Western Union example, WU used their company mission (“Making Connections Worldwide”) as a springboard to develop the Our World, Our Family program. The Our World program helps migrant families (a key customer base for WU) find economic opportunities. WU uses their worldwide connections and banking expertise to help a key customer segment (which comprises approximately 10% of the worlds population) establish themselves in new communities.

Creating an impact

By leveraging your expertise and relationships, your social initiative can have maximum impact. WU’s ambitious program aims to create widespread systemic change and impact a large population. They have made a $50 million commitment over a five-year period to help migrant families find education and economic opportunities. Through their worldwide connections and experience in banking they can create meaningful impact with their social program and ultimately, those benefiting from the program will most likely turn to WU for banking services.

Think about the long-term

Sustainability is an important goal in social initiatives. Though WU has made a five-year commitment, all of those benefiting from their services will generate new business for the worldwide bank. Furthermore, through their education program, the Our World program prepares new generations of migrants educational and economic opportunities that raise families from poverty. Through WU’s program, success should have a domino effect. This generation will do better than the last, and the cycle continues.
Remember, though you might calculate your efforts for this year, what program are you going to develop that speaks to the long-term?

Incorporating a social mission into your company framework is challenging and requires a lot of thought. Social missions are so pervasive in today’s business environment, there are consulting firms that help businesses launch social initiatives. Changing Our World, Inc, an Omincom Group company, is a consulting firm that helps companies identify a social mission and ways of incorporating it into their company.

Photo by Anna Maria Lopez from Stock.Xchng