COVID-19 has forced a lot of organisations to be much more in tune with their client communities and stakeholders. It moves the focus of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives that many corporations have pursued for some time into a new age of empathy, kindness and understanding.
Hooray! This means organisations of all sizes have the opportunity to ponder and then take action around what social license they have to operate in our market. Being in business just to make money is probably not enough anymore.
ethics.org.au describes it like this. “Social license – or social license to operate – is a term that has been in usage for almost 20 years. At its simplest, it refers to the acceptance granted to a company or organisation by the community. . . . . [it’s] the informal “license” granted to a company by various stakeholders who may be affected by the company’s activities. Such a license is based on trust and confidence – hard to win, easy to lose.”
And guess what the good news is for those yet to consider what this looks like for their small business? There’s a growing view that social responsibility can be good for long-time financial performance. For the small business owner, it’s thinking about what sort of corporate citizen you are, your values and how they are demonstrated in the work that you do, the services you provide and the suppliers you choose. It’s also about what impact you’re having on the environment. And I don’t just mean the physical environment, but the communities who you serve and the people who you work with.
If you are yet to align your organisation to a social cause, it’s time to get with the program and think about what you really care about, what your personal mission is and how that can come to life through what you do in your business. Am I personally putting moral pressure on you? I think the market expects it of you and I think what we’re hearing is that gone are the days where profit is the only thing we’re responsible for delivering in our businesses.
Here’s an example from Dara Shashoua from Byzantine Design here in Melbourne.
When you visit the store in High Street, Windsor, you’ll discover a collaborative space that is recognised within the design community for their authentic approach to providing creative solutions
Byzantine Design brings together a community of like-minded design lovers who are about so much more than a simple tile. Dara believes the materials we fill our spaces with have the ability to affect our every day and evoke a sense of inspiration, modernity or nostalgia.
Choosing a tile is not simply about how it looks, but how it feels – the texture of the surface against your skin, its power to transform a room and its ability to incite an emotional response. Dara describes her business service as curating beautiful materials to create spaces that make you feel alive. It’s built on passion, dedication and a genuine and lasting love for design.
Here’s how Dara has approached making a contribution beyond profit in her business . . . . .
I believe that it is the responsibility of businesses to give back. Being small businesses, we have complete control over our processes and the financial and ethical choices that we make. If you think about it, if all of the small businesses gave back; Not only would we have a massive collective impact for good in the world, but the big businesses would also be forced to change their practises and give back for good.
I’ve found that honestly, there are just too many people to help. So I try and spread my giving between multiple charities and causes that I believe in. I think that everyone should at least be offsetting our carbon emissions – we do that by planting 2 trees per pallet of tiles delivered. I am also an activator with SheEO, and we donate to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and “Pay The Rent” – which give back to first nations peoples on whose land we conduct business here in Australia. Personally I sponsor a child through the Smith Family and I donate to charity:water The Spring. At the beginning, it was quite overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be perfect – you just need to do something and it feels good. I find that breaking it down into small, achievable steps helps. The actual act of giving back is very easy to do and makes such a big impact.
My goal for 2021 is for Byzantine Design to become BCorp Certified. It’s been on my wishlist for a few years and next year I am gong to try my hardest to make it happen.
It’s an interesting time to be in business and I’m really excited about the intersection between corporate Australia and social enterprises. Those who will be successful won’t be shying away from what they believe in, what they stand for and how they are making a positive contribution. They will wear their values and philanthropic contribution to their community like a badge of honour. And, assuming the initiatives are genuine and helping those its committed to serve, these brands and organisations will have the edge over their competitors.
Because a social license is based on trust and confidence – hard to win, easy to lose.
I encourage you to have a good, hard think over the Christmas and New Year period about what that means for you. Ronni Kahn’s book, A Repurposed Life, is a great starting point if you’re wishing to give this more thought.
What license do I have to ask these questions of you? My personal mission is to help people unlock their potential. As a life long learner I will never have all the answers. I am curious and care deeply about the opportunity we all have to embrace what matters to us and to make a difference. Whatever that looks like for you.
Think Bespoke’s support for the START Foundation began in 2016 after I met the Co-Founder Michelle Jelleff. Read more here. Our support for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation began in 2017 when I started to ask myself questions about what it means to be Australian. Read more here.
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