People working together to clean up the environment
Becoming a socially responsible business isn't difficult, but it can be challenging to know where to start. Here are five steps to becoming a socially responsible business. — Getty Images/South_agency

Today's consumers don't just care about a company's products, services or popularity. They also value businesses that are socially responsible. Consumers will go out of their way to pay more for products and services from companies that align with their sense of values and ethics. Being more socially responsible by making an impact will not only expand your customer base but also give you a sense of accomplishment that will boost your employee morale. Here's how to start a socially responsible business.

[Read: What Is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)?]

What is corporate social responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is when a business makes extra effort to improve its local community, the economy, the environment or any other social cause that is meaningful to them. There is no specific definition or set of standards regarding social responsibility, and it’s up to the company to determine their goals and values.

Now more than ever, consumers are seeking out businesses that give back in some capacity. Over 60% of Americans hope that businesses use their platform and resources to drive social and environmental change, regardless of government regulation. They seek out companies that support issues that are meaningful to them and are more likely to buy from socially responsible businesses.

Some startups and small businesses may feel as though they do not have the financial resources to give back. Regardless of your monetary situation, the best currency you can offer is your time. Donating your time and workforce is another important way that businesses can advocate for change.

[Read: 7 Steps to Starting a Nonprofit]

They [consumers] seek out companies that support issues that are meaningful to them and are more likely to buy from socially responsible businesses.

How to become a socially responsible business in 5 steps

Becoming a socially responsible business isn't difficult, but it can be challenging to know where to start. There are an infinite number of ways for you to give back and causes to which you can allocate resources. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you narrow down your options and support a cause in a way that is the most efficient for you.

1. Define your company's values.

Before you can start to give back, take an introspective look at your company and its values. Think about your company’s mission and what it stands for (or against). Once you’ve internally established its values, you can start brainstorming ways to implement them into various social causes and projects.

2. Involve your staff.

Social change should come from everybody within the organization, not just from the top. As you start to brainstorm ways to be more socially responsible, include everyone in your staff within those conversations, especially those of different backgrounds. Having a well-rounded and holistic view gives you a better idea of how to tackle these issues and how your involvement will directly bring change.

3. Recognize issues that matter to you and your audience.

Once you and your staff have discussed ways to make an impact, talk about what issues mean the most to your customers. You can do simple research and analysis by engaging with your customer base and asking them what causes are meaningful to them through social media and email surveys. Discover which types of issues consistently come up with your customers and find organizations you can work with to tackle these issues.

[Read: Education, Partnerships and Community Are Essential to Nonprofit Success]

4. Establish realistic goals.

Every company wants to make an impact; however, a common downfall is being too broad or overreaching with your goals. As a group, establish realistic goals for how you can implement change on a realistic timeline. This can be monthly, quarterly or annually and should have specific and attainable steps and goals.

5. Prepare to respond to current events and social issues.

Don’t stay on the sidelines when major events or social movements happen. Be flexible with your social responsibility and know that you can pivot your budget, time and nonprofit partners. You can also change the issues and organizations you work with if you find an urgent issue that you'd like to contribute to.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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