Corporate social responsibility: it’s an awfully dry phrase, your eyes are probably glazing over already. Which is a shame, as what it’s all about – businesses actually caring about the places where they’re located and the people who live in them – is incredibly important.
Spending time on tasks other than keeping your company afloat in the early stages of a business can seem a bit daunting, especially when you’re bootstrapping. However, entrepreneurs are increasingly seeing the worth of doing so, with a wealth of data available that demonstrates the more you do good the more likely you are to keep your staff happy and attract new customers. Underlining this is the finding in The B Team’s New Ways of Working report, which details that meaningful work is a more desirable job factor than high pay amongst millennials.
But how should a business go about doing good? One of the best proponents of this is the founder and CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff. The pair of us attended a recent B Team event in San Francisco, where we were joined by a host of other forward-thinking entrepreneurs, such as Samasource founder Leila Janah, to discuss this very matter.
I rarely feel overdressed, especially when sat next to a fellow business leader, but I have to say Marc’s casual outfit put me to shame! The approach to making a difference that Salesforce have adopted is to start by focusing on just one cause. In their case, that one thing is standing up for LGBT rights. As such a big organisation, which holds conferences and events all across the US, Salesforce has a lot of financial muscle.
So when, like in the case of Georgia, a ‘religious liberty’ bill is proposed that would allow officials and organisations to discriminate against same-sex couples, Salesforce can take a stand and threaten to take their business elsewhere. We have practiced a similar approach at Virgin in certain situations, such as calling for companies and tourists to boycott Uganda after its parliament approved a terrible anti-gay bill. Meanwhile, I applaud Bruce Springsteen for taking a stand by cancelling his concert in North Carolina in protest at the state's anti-LGBTQ law.
Not only that, Marc is quick to reach out to his network to get others to support – on this occasion myself, Brad Smith of Microsoft and Michael Dell of Dell were all happy to get behind the cause. We’ve also subsequently seen the likes of Disney and Marvel become more vocal in their opposition to the draconian proposal. There’s great hope that this stand will see the bill dropped, with Salesforce pressuring Indiana into revising a similar bill a year ago.
It’s always a pleasure speaking alongside Marc in these sort of discussions; his humble and direct approach can often offer real clarity. In order to get as many people as possible to join you in supporting your good cause it’s important not to overcomplicate things. Give people a straightforward and tangible goal to aim for.
The Marc Benioff approach of choosing one thing that you can work towards is a great way to ensure your business makes a positive difference in the communities it serves, while ensuring that you aren’t biting off more than you can chew.
What one thing does your business do to help others?