Business Doing Good
Several years ago, I heard something I have never forgotten (indirectly) from a minister friend I respect a great deal. He said something to the effect that he was in the process of shifting his hope for impact for good from the church to business. At the time, I heard that comment as one person’s frustration with seeing the church get beyond herself to impact their community for God. Since I have felt that frustration myself more times than I can count, I smiled and muttered, “Amen!”
Recently, as I have been exploring ways a business can and does impact its community for good, I have come to see my friend’s comment as prophetic—a statement about the future of serving others. There is, in fact, a strong movement among businesses across the nation to shift their purpose from merely making profits to making a difference in their community which, more often than not, means serving people in need either directly or indirectly.
Many businesses include in their “giving back” activities having to do with environmental issues—reducing their carbon footprint, serving the planet, etc. I respect and appreciate those efforts, but for the purpose of this blog, I am only addressing serving people in need, which is more consistent with the focus of Compassionaries blogs.
How Does Business Do Good?
This is what I have found about how a business does good. . . from the more traditional ways to the more creative, impactful ways:
- They give money and/or products/services–donate to local non-profits and sponsor community events.
- They match the donations of their employees to non-profits up to a designated amount, virtually doubling the donations.
- They give paid time off for their employees to volunteer in the community.
- They organize opportunities to serve for their employees, i.e. build a Habitat house, stage a food packing event for food pantries, etc.
This list of businesses doing good moves from less to more impactful because I understand the impact to be about how much people’s needs are met. As the employees of a business get personally involved, the impact of their serving goes up noticeably. Both the needs of the people they serve AND their own need to serve are met simultaneously, but this requires hands-on involvement.
Why Does Business Do Good?
Why are businesses looking for ways to serve people in need in their communities? Because they understand that doing so is good for business. That is not to say that doing good improves the proverbial bottom line. It means doing good in the community not only creates favorable optics for the business in the community but also . . .
- cultivates a stronger sense of purpose among their employees,
- encourages stronger loyalty to the business,
- helps them attract better employees.
One business is quoted in an online article as saying: “We recognize that our employees don’t want just a paycheck; they want a place where they can make a difference.” Another says: “We want to do more than give back monetarily—we want to demonstrate to our communities that we care about where we live and are willing to donate our time and talents, too.”
One business leader who has distinguished himself in the realm of business doing good is Gary Hirshberg, former CEO of Stonyfield Farms in New Londonderry, New Hampshire. He is the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World. Because of his commitment to seeing businesses doing good, he recognized early on that younger generations are especially conscious of the business for whom they work doing good. He says: “Since Millennials began coming into early adulthood around 2000, there’s been an epidemic of interest in doing good.”
For those who might want to point out the self-interest in these motives for business doing good, you might want to curve your finger back in your direction. Self-interest has always been part of serving others if only because we know it’s the right thing to do which, in itself, gives us some satisfaction.
A new direction?
If you have read many Compassionaries blogs, you may wonder if I have given up on the church like my friend cited at the beginning of this piece. Absolutely Not!! Yes, I am often frustrated by church folk’s and church leaders’ failure to recognize the priority of serving others, but I cannot shake my personal calling. I still believe followers of Jesus have the best reasons to serve people in need than anyone, and I will do all I can to remind them until I die. Until then, I am willing to recognize other ways God might be working to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
Pass it on.
At this point in all my blogs, I ask what sort of response you have to it. This time I ask you to send this blog to any business leader God lays on your heart. Who knows? Maybe it will nudge them to revise their business plan to include serving others . . . and keep the movement going?