The distinction between social enterprise and a socially responsible company can be significant. It’s important to recognise how your own business is structured, because it can have an impact on how you can go out and help our world with your organization as the vehicle. It will also make a difference in your business social networking tactics.
Social enterprises are designed and structured right from the outset to have a social mission and impact.
Traditional companies that want to become more socially responsible, and even help society as part of their existing activities, have to think differently in their approach.
How can Traditional Companies Merge a Social Mission into Their Structure?
First and foremost, there must be a will to change – an executive will to include a social mission and impact as part of the company program.
Gregory Unruh writes an article in Forbes Blog, entitled “Committing to Improvement.” Here, he details the commitments that must come out of a company in order for socially responsible change to emerge.
Companies that have their origin in social enterprise find that meeting commitments are part of their founding corporate DNA. New Jersey-based TerraCycle, for example, builds its products from non-recyclable waste that would otherwise be dumped in landfills. Los Angeles-based TOMS shoes fulfills its commitments by donating a pair of shoes to the underprivileged for every pair a paying customer buys. Traditional companies without a social heritage, however, will have to take their own steps.
For traditional companies, that’s where the challenge begins.
Social Commitment Through CSR and Sustainability Reports?
Of course, there are some traditional companies that then move on to writing up Corporate Social Responsibility Reports or Sustainability Reports. But how far can this take you?
Reporting must go beyond just another procedural and bureaucratic measure (in a string of other measures). Of course for some companies, this is as far as it gets. It’s a great start – especially in the accountability of minimum social responsibility standards, but can traditional companies do more?
From One-Sided Reports to a Two-Way Discussion about Social Impact
According to Gregory, they can do more. It’s interesting that he points to social media as one solution in drawing a discussion and open forum for improving a company’s social resposnbilities.
A CSR Report should not be a PR leave-behind, but a public conversation with society about how you are fulfilling your responsibilities. In some cases, a report may not even be the best vehicle. Internet-based social media tools can allow a conversation to occur between a company and its stakeholders. As with commitments, many companies will find that they need unique and targeted ways to engage their communities in a discussion about social responsibility.
I’d agree with Gregory that companies can do more. The question really comes down to whether companies will do more and this can be solved through business social networking.
Nevertheless, it does start off with a clear commitment from within a company.
Is there another way, beyond CSR Reports?
Share your opinions: What other ways can traditional companies show their commitments to social responsibility?