The limitless access to information today has created a more educated consumer base. Truth and transparency have become de facto for businesses. Consumers no longer buy just a product or service. They are committing to brands and buying stories that resonate with them. Many want to align themselves with the "good guy"--companies not only known for great products and services but also for community involvement, employee satisfaction, and a reputation for giving back. And lip service doesn't suffice anymore--technology has provided consumers with the tools for verifying a company's claims of responsibility.
Social and corporate responsibility isn't just about being green, using both sides of copy paper, and recycling food scraps in the office kitchen. As business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs we are all part of various communities. Our social responsibility involves understanding the parts we play in those communities and contributing to them--that includes our employees and their families, our industries, our cities, even the world.
Supporting your employee's passions and encouraging them to be involved members of the community creates a more impassioned and satisfying workplace. It also creates a more networked workforce, which can have the added benefits of increased awareness and contacts for your company. I've found several strategies to be effective for both achieving good business results and for creating a positive, fulfilling environment where community involvement and social responsibility are valued.
Encourage participation in industry associations and events:
- Active participation in and contributions to the business community one belongs is a great way to improve business practices, gain additional skills, and achieve name recognition and contacts.
- By publicizing the industry associations you participate in, it can lend credibility  to your status as a key member of your industry.
Encourage and publicize your employees' community involvement:
- Our company participates in the United Way Day of Caring  every year. This is a great team building exercise that gets people out of the office and interacting with each other in new and different ways. Not to mention that it doesn't cost anything additional to participate.
- Providing recognition is always a key factor in employee satisfaction. We have a Giving page  on our Web site that highlights both company and employee volunteer and sponsorship activities.
- For those daunted by networking, working shoulder to shoulder with others on a common cause provides a less threatening way for employees to meet new people that may turn into profitable business contacts.
- Participation in non-profit boards is a great way to develop leadership skills.
Support your employees in community activities and interests and in turn you'll have very satisfied, content employees and a more efficient workplace where employees look forward to work. In addition you will create increased awareness for your company, expand your network of business contacts, increase skills, learn better ways to run your business, and become known as one of the "good guys".
Read more of Melinda Partin's Work Tank blog 
As CEO and co-founder of Worktank, Melinda leads the company's strategic direction with the goal of worldwide expansion to better serve our global customer base. Her vision is central to Worktank's mission of helping clients find new and compelling ways to establish meaningful relationships with their customers.
Drawing on over a decade of interactive experience, Melinda helps companies transition from traditional marketing to Web- and interactive-based channels. Her wide-ranging background includes Fortune 500 and small- to mid-sized companies in technology, real estate, corporate housing, and telecommunications, and the non-profit sector in HIV/AIDS and hunger issues. Melinda moved to the agency side after stints with Microsoft Sidewalk and Microsoft Studios, where she pushed the edge of media technology.