As a business owner who is looking to incorporate a social purpose into your business, you are probably wondering what cause to support. A lot of the business leaders that I work with, as a philanthropy consultant, are often so excited and eager to start doing, that they are impatient at this most important stage – choosing a cause.
I say most important stage because this truly is the most challenging and at the same time the most crucial step in the process of incorporating meaning into your business.
It is challenging because you need to pick a cause that is dear to your heart but also that resonates with your employees. If you are a large business, you might be in a position to support several different causes so there would be something for everybody. However, if you are a smaller business, you mightn’t be able to afford to do so and you will need to pick one. If the decision is purely top-down, chances are your employees won’t be all that excited about it. And if you leave the choice to your employees and you end up not liking the cause, well you won’t be as invested in it. Either way, it’s bad. You need to pick a cause that is truly important to most of you at the very least.
At the same time, it is important that your cause is somehow related to your business. Not all businesses do that or understand the need for such a link but it is essential. It may be a direct link, i.e. pharmaceutical company with a healthcare initiative for example. Or it could be a more indirect link, i.e. a clothing company with printed chapters of books on their products supporting education initiatives. But there most definitely must be a link. Otherwise, you run the risk of customers not understanding your social engagement and worse – thinking that it is all marketing, that you are not genuine. So having a cause somewhat related to your business or your product is vital.
Here’s worthy causes that these inspiring companies have chosen. Hopefully, you will find inspiration yourself…
Good Spread – is a company that sells jars of peanut butter. For every jar of peanut butter sold, the company donates the equivalent of Mana – “therapeutic food” to a malnourished child. This “therapeutic food” is a medicine based on peanuts and designed to treat malnutrition. As you may know malnutrition is a very serious problem in countries that suffer poverty.
If you are a food company, whether a retailer, producer or if you operate any kind of food related business, malnutrition would be a great cause to support.
Trees / Environment
WeWood is a company that sells products made of eco materials, primarily made of wood. They sell both eyewear and watches and for every product sold they plant a tree around the globe. So far they’ve planted over 400,000 trees in four continents, hoping to get up to a million trees by 2020.
Whether you are a car retailer or manufacturer, a stationary company or any sort of company whose operations or products affect the environment, doing the same as WeWood would be a great endeavour and especially in Ireland. As you know, Ireland is one of the countries that suffer the most deforestation in Europe.
Panda sells bamboo sunglasses. The proceeds from each pair sold are used to provide eye exams and prescription glasses to school-aged children. The company works with a non-profit called Optometry Giving Sight and with their assistance Panda also helps in building optometry schools where they train low-income men and women to give eye exams.
Hand in Hand is a soap company that is also following the one-for-one model. For every bar or bottle of soap purchased, they donate a bar of soap and clean water for a month to a child in a developing country. The lack of hygiene due to lack of soap and water is the reason for the death of 5 million children each year. By providing families with soap and clean water, the company strives to promote hygiene and improve healthcare.
Healthcare is quite a popular cause among companies. The beauty of it is – as you see, you don’t need to be in the medical or pharmaceutical industry to support and promote healthcare. And if you are, a healthcare related cause would be an obvious choice for you.
Hasbro is a toy company with worldwide operations. As part of their philanthropic effort they’ve created the ToyBox Tool program that offers instructional videos, printable materials and play-mats designed to help families, teachers and caregivers unlock the power of play through which children can learn at their own pace. Their ToyBox tools are designed based on evidence and emerging best practices.
Autism is another great cause and again – you don’t even need to be a healthcare professional or healthcare company to find a way to support the cause!
Better World Books is an online store for books. Part of what they do is also based on the one-for-one model. For every book purchased on their website, the company donates a book to a non-profit organisation called Books for Africa. Among other things, the company also funds literacy projects through the purchases made on their website, and they also support the ‘collect and drive’ of used books and text books and their re-distribution to those in need, etc.
Out of Print clothing is company with an innovative approach – they sell T-shirts and apparel printed with covers of classic literature. For every product purchased, the company donates one book to Books for Africa.
Education is another popular cause with companies of all kinds – from companies as the above to ones such as General Mills, Accenture, Cisco, IBM and many more. Whether you are an accounting company, a business consultant, a marketing firm or anything within those lines, education would be a good choice for you.
And keep in mind – the above are just some examples. There are hundreds of causes and programs such as relieving the water shortage, providing food for baby orphans, providing materials for healthcare providers in developing countries, etc. Remember: the most important is that you pick a cause you truly believe is important so you are dedicated to it, and that you create a link between your cause and your business (if not obvious) so your target audience would understand it.
If you would like for your business to grow but also contribute to the greater good, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As a corporate philanthropy consultant with many years of business coaching experience, I can help you integrate meaning and purpose into your business. More importantly I can help you make the transition to for-profit and purpose smooth. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.