Social good–what does it mean?
Simply put, social good is about working to improve the world around you through volunteer work or supporting a cause. And since 50% of global consumers saying they’re willing to pay more for goods or services from companies with social good programs, it’s clearly something important to global audiences.
Furthermore, finding a cause to support can benefit a company immensely. Not only can it bring employees closer together and help them connect to one another, but it can also provide motivation about the bigger picture: What can you share with the world? How can you help, and where? What kind of team and workplace do I want to join?
In April 2014, I led a team of employees who volunteered to join me in traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, where we spent a week building an orphanage with Back2Back Ministries, an organization dedicated to serving orphan children around the world. Over the years we’ve channeled our engineering and construction knowledge to build and rehab orphanages in places like Mexico, Haiti, Nigeria, and India. Community service is an integral part of our company culture and I’ve found it benefits us immensely. Not only does it bring us together as a team and help us connect with each other, but it also motivates us to think bigger than ourselves and question what we can do as an organization to help the world.
Here are some ways to implement social good into your organization:
Think about your company culture, mission, and values. Is there a cause that aligns with your organization?
Sanergy, for example, is a company whose goal is to provide affordable sanitation in African slums. In order to further its mission, Sanergy partnered with Kiva to provide interest-free loans to Fresh Life Toilet operators to finance their sanitation franchises.
However, a cause doesn’t necessarily have to tie in to your organization if you’re passionate about it. Levi Strauss recently began a program to incorporate recycled materials into their jeans. Since 2013, they’ve recycled more than 7.9 million plastic bottles. What do plastic and jeans have in common? Nothing. But the company found a way to make it work, and they’ve been making a difference ever since.
Don’t volunteer or donate just for the sake of doing so or to say your organization is focused on social good. Find a cause that resonates with your personal values and is deeply meaningful for you. Are you passionate about education? Environmental issues? Feeding the hungry? It starts with the heart, and the benefits for your organization are an indirect outcome.
Don’t just encourage your employees to volunteer or get involved; lead by example. I might be the founder of my company, but when we’re building orphanages, I’m swinging hammers and pouring concrete with everyone else. It’s important for all members of an organization to work for social good, starting from the top down.
Getting all employees involved will help connect your entire organization and ensure social good is an integral part of the company. Consider declaring a day off and organizing a local project in which all employees can participate. Hold a meeting to discuss causes your organization could get involved in, and what extra resources your organization generates that could be channeled to those causes, so ideas from all employees are included.
You don’t have to donate huge sums of money or travel across the world to make a difference.
Although my company embarks on multiple mission trips with Back2Back each year, we also work with local nonprofits to find uses for products that are scratched, dented, or lightly used. In addition, we bought a baler to smash down cardboard in our warehouse and turn it into bales to be recycled, resulting in well over 100,000 pounds of recycled cardboard each year. These are smaller efforts, but they help find uses for items that would otherwise be in landfills.
Look for little ways your organization can implement social good locally, whether through contributing to nonprofits, donating goods or services, or simply volunteering.
Our volunteer trips are all expenses paid, and the days away from the office are given as extra paid vacation days for our team members who choose to participate. Your employees’ time is precious, so make it easier for them to help with causes they are passionate about.
Consider giving time off for volunteer work, such as an afternoon a week to help with the organization of their choice. Or, like we do, cover the costs of volunteering, including time off work, flights, lodging and meals while on the mission trip.
Within every industry are opportunities for social good, and it’s becoming an increasingly important part of a company’s makeup. Know who you are as an organization and look for ways to help. The rewards are tremendous–personal growth, team building, and most importantly, serving people who need help and knowing that your work makes a difference beyond the bottom line.
What are other ways to get involved and implement social good within your organization?
—Will Housh is the founder and CEO of HVAC.com, one of the fastest growing privately held businesses in America three years in a row. Connect with Will on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or via email at media@HVAC.com.