Boost business by practicing social responsibility.
If you Google the term “social entrepreneurship,” you get more than 18 million results. Even leading business schools such as Yale, Wharton, Columbia and Stanford all have programs in social entrepreneurship, with more and more programs being created across the country and the world.
The fact of the matter is that entrepreneurs want to make a profit, but they also want to make a social impact. The other important point of note is that consumers want to do business with companies that give them the products and services they want and also are socially responsible.
Late last year, GlobeScan, SustainAbility and BBMG published a study entitled The 2013 Aspirational Consumer Index, which determined there are “nearly 2.5 billion consumers globally who are uniting style, social status and sustainability values to redefine consumption … more than one-third of consumers globally (36.4%) identify as Aspirationals, defined by their love of shopping (78%), desire for responsible consumption (92%) and their trust in brands to act in the best interest of society (58%).”
According to the study, Millennials are the largest portion of Aspirational consumers, followed by Generation X, with 39 being the average age of an Aspirational. They tend to live in urban areas, are likely female and live in emerging markets such as China or India.
Why do we find ourselves at the nexus between social entrepreneurship and social consumerism? There are a lot of reasons why social entrepreneurship has moved beyond being a trend in the early 2000s to being a movement today.
Certainly, one of the reasons lies with the youth embodied by Millennials, who really care about being socially responsible.
As an example, anecdotally if you follow social entrepreneurship and being socially responsible across varying social media platforms, you are likely to find that a good portion of the people involved in the discussions are younger Gen Xers and Millennials. It is not uncommon for longstanding professionals in the nonprofit sector to be exchanging ideas and thoughts very often with people who are just starting out in their careers.
We also happen to live in a unique moment in time. Given our information or digital age, we now live in a world where enormous innovation, technological and scientific discovery has become routine. We no longer have one brilliant inventor or social business catalyst for our time who manages to change the world as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison did. We now live in a world of many great innovators, social thinkers and thought leaders such as the late Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Melinda Gates or Janet Yellin, etc.
Last year, four companies tied for first place on Forbes’ list of most socially responsible companies: Microsoft, Google, The Walt Disney Co. and BMW. These are all leading brands that have incorporated good socially responsible practices as part of their business models. Companies are going greener and are ever more mindful of the environment and the world we are leaving to future generations. They are also looking to treat their employees well or help fight and support efforts to create new solutions to address uncompromising global issues around poverty, health and education.
Therefore, the leading edge of theory and practice is such that in the 21st century smart companies and businesses will be looking to make a profit in a socially responsible manner. The two are no longer mutually exclusive — and consumers will be demanding more and more of this business ethos with their wallets.
* This article was printed as “Grow your Green.”