Every entrepreneur wants to grow their business. However, as experienced leaders know, achieving and then coping with rapid growth comes with challenges. While the first topic that comes to mind may be managing complex finances or building a team to handle the heavier load, another factor to consider is how to address your company’s commitment to social responsibility.
For example, the path to growth could potentially involve an expanded carbon footprint. Or hiring quickly to fill needs may make it more difficult to ensure your efforts are guided by diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Fortunately, entrepreneurs don’t have to choose between significant success and social responsibility. As the leaders of Fast Company Executive Board know, there are smart ways to ensure that your fast growth also comes with a positive social impact. To balance your desires to build your business and contribute to positive change, check out the eight strategies they share below.
1. SET (AND TALK ABOUT) YOUR SOCIAL GOALS.
Set goals for generating outcomes society cares about. For example, the tech firm Analog Devices talks about how it reduces carbon emissions, enriches biodiversity, and improves water quality. Philips has a goal to improve the lives of 1 billion people by 2030. Local restaurants have goals for the percentage of local produce they use or for providing takeout containers made of compostable material. Set a goal, track it, and make it happen! – Andrew Binns, Change Logic LLC
2. BUILD SUSTAINABILITY INTO YOUR OPERATIONS.
Understanding that financial, environmental, and social performance are closely connected is the first step in responsible growth. Today’s consumers expect organizations to align with their personal values, and they will move on from a company that doesn’t. By ingraining sustainability into the fabric of your company, you’ll see an increase in customer loyalty. – Joyce Kim, Genesys
3. DEFINE YOUR HIGHER PURPOSE.
Define a strong purpose for your organization that articulates your social responsibility and the positive impact you wish to have on the world. Look for inspiration from the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and quantify your impact—not in terms of “dollars” but in terms of “numbers” (for example, “meals donated” or “trees planted”). Research shows that a strong purpose leads to higher profits while also creating a legacy. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
4. START LEARNING ABOUT SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS PRACTICES.
I think the best thing a leader can do is to start learning about ways to create sustainable business practices. It is a difficult subject in which you may not have expertise—but other people do. Doing an online course, networking with the right people, or finding businesses that help in this area will give you meaningful ways to meet social responsibility goals. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
5. ENCOMPASS ALL YOUR STAKEHOLDERS’ NEEDS.
Clarify your purpose. It must encompass the needs of all stakeholders—employees, customers, shareholders, and community—to create the basis for keeping social responsibility on the priority list. If your purpose is to hit numbers, social responsibility will be traded off. Recognize that leadership is about being an “and” person, not an “or” person. It’s your job to do both. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC
6. FOCUS ON RESTORATION.
The UN has declared this the Decade on Restoration for our planet. That includes every company as we strive to be more sustainable and inclusive. At the heart of this is balance. Is your industry in balance with building restoration into their processes, production, and practices? Moving from extraction to restoration is healthy for companies and healthy for our planet. – Dianne Dain, World Humanitarian Forum
7. START WITH YOUR TEAM.
Hiring the right people is one of the best things a leader can do for their team, as well as for the business as a whole. You want unique and diverse team members who are positive, helpful, loyal, trustworthy, growth-oriented, motivated, and teachable. Starting with your team is a way to spread that mindset to the world through your products or services—and especially through your strategy. – John Hall, Calendar
8. SHARE YOUR JOURNEY TO SUSTAINABILITY.
What’s key is to narrate the journey. Nothing is ever perfect. You want to humanize both aspirations and reality, so transparency goes a long way. Patagonia has created a carbon footprint chronicle for every product they sell that shares both “the good” and the “work in progress” of that product’s supply chain. In short, if you let the truth be your friend, people will be far more forgiving of your imperfections. – Michael Margolis, Storied