A socially responsible entrepreneur? Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it even possible? By definition entrepreneurship used to be defined by personal risk = personal reward. Stop working for “the man” with a single-minded pursuit of profits. Today, this single-minded approach leaves most employees less than inspired to perform. It also leaves customers wanting more. Not more product or service, but more awareness on the business’ part.
Emerging “socially responsible entrepreneurship” has a lot to offer in… addition to profits. The bottom line with socially responsible entrepreneurship is multi-faceted. It means that in addition to profit, we pay attention to people…and the planet. This doesn’t necessarily mean we contribute all of our profits to save the whales or other philanthropic opportunities. But instead, as entrepreneurs, we do things in a conscious manner.
We may take an existing product, but produce it with less scrape, fewer inputs, or with recycled components. Mathematically, this increases productivity…doing more with less.
We could create a new service or product that meets a social need that isn’t being provided. We could create jobs for the disadvantaged or disabled, pay employees a living wage and simply treat all employees with dignity.
One of the most significant impacts that entrepreneurs have is creating jobs. That, in and of itself, is a social goal that contributes positively to society.
One of the keys to socially responsible entrepreneurship is to incorporate the people and planet aspects into our goals and mission statements right alongside of profits. This makes everyone involved with the venture aware of where the company places its priorities. Of course, we have to have a sustainable organization. This allows the entrepreneur to fulfill the needs and expectations future stakeholders.
One such example is Ericsson Nikola Tesla, a telecommunications company in Croatia [ericsson.com]. They address their role as socially responsible entrepreneurs through a “scope of activities”.
- New ways of work. They want to promote new information and technologies as a prerequisite for the development of their economy…and the “fast accession of Croatia to the EU.”
- Human resources development. Their priority is to hire young, creative, people and to provide them with a pleasant work environment and remain “permanently focused on the development of (their) overall capacities.”
- Sustainable development. They realize the importance of designing and producing products and services “that improve the quality of life and productivity and enable a more resource-efficient world.”
They also spell out activities regarding, occupational health and safety, equal opportunities and gender equality, support to associations and participation in their activities, collaboration with universities, and sponsorships and donations.
Social entrepreneurship…who really cares? Our stakeholders do. Numerous studies are showing that social responsibility contributes to the bottom line. Sam Wyly, in his book “1,ooo Dollars & An Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire” tried to determine just how much extra consumers were willing to pay for environmentally friendly products. This can difficult to do. But we could probably agree that it is a moving target…and that consumers are beginning to look for socially responsible companies…and pay a bit extra for the satisfaction they get from helping contribute to society rather than just profits.