“We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.”
Richard Feynman

From a young age, our parents teach us that we must take responsibility for our own actions. It's one of the most basic yet most important lessons in life. Those who do not heed it often find themselves in a world of trouble.

Just like individuals, businesses must also be responsible. If they aren't, they might get away with it for a while, but eventually they will pay the price. Sometimes businesses that behave badly are subject to criminal and civil penalties. Other times no such penalties apply. But in the court of public opinion, they are tried and convicted.

Social responsibility is more important for businesses than it has ever been. Today's consumers expects the businesses they patronize to be good corporate citizens. They expect them to have a sense of responsibility toward their communities, their customers, their workers, the environment, and the world at large. And increasingly, they're researching companies before they ever make a single purchase from them to make sure they can feel good about supporting them.

This is good news for most small business owners, because they tend to be more socially responsible by nature, at least in some ways. Small businesses rarely run sweatshops in faraway countries, or dump huge amounts of toxic waste, or have large environmental footprints.

But that doesn't mean that they're excused from social responsibility. Small business owners must still strive to avoid causing or contributing to the world's problems. They must be aware of the sources of the materials they use in their products. They must be sensitive to the needs of customers with disabilities. They must treat their customers, employees and contractors well. These are among the most basic things that consumers expect from them.

If you do these things, you will maintain the respect of your target market. But being socially responsible can do more than that. It can set you apart from the competition. However, if you want to reap the rewards of social responsibility, you must take it a step further. You've got to reach out and try to make the world a better place instead of just trying not to make things worse.

The Benefits of Social Responsibility

The most socially responsible companies realize a number of benefits. One of the most obvious is the opportunity for increased publicity. The media loves stories about the things companies are doing for charity or the steps they're taking to help the environment. How many times have you opened the newspaper to see a photo of a business representative handing an oversized check to someone from a charitable organization?

Another thing social responsibility can do for you, in some cases, is save you money. When you recycle, conserve energy, and do certain other things that are good for the environment, you positively impact your bottom line. That's not a bad side effect at all.

Social responsibility is also a powerful morale booster. It makes you feel good, and if you have employees, getting them in on the act makes them feel good about working for you. That's good for productivity, and it helps you present a better image to your customers.

But most importantly, social responsibility is about doing the right thing. It's about a company recognizing the problems in its community and the world and doing something about them. That in itself is reason enough to be socially responsible. And when it's clear that you're doing it not for the glory, but because it is the right thing to do, your customers and potential customers will recognize and appreciate it.

Social Responsibility in Action

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
G.M. Trevelyan

When corporate types think of social responsibility, they often think of getting out their checkbooks and making a donation to a charity. That's a good thing to do. But throwing money at the world's problems is not the only way that businesses can help eliminate them. And if that's all they do, customers might begin to question whether they really believe in helping people or if it's just for show.

Businesses that truly believe in making a difference in the world will try to do so in many different ways. They reduce consumption of natural resources. They strive to make their products more environmentally friendly. They monitor their operations and suppliers' operations to ensure that no human rights violations are going on. Because true social responsibility isn't just a single activity. It's a business philosophy.

Another characteristic that customers look for when gauging the social responsibility of a business is a willingness to sacrifice profits for the greater good. They realize that companies are in business to make money, but they also know that there are things that are more important than the almighty dollar. Even if they have to pay more for a product because it's created through fair trade or contains ingredients that are not harmful to the environment, socially conscious customers are happy to do so. And they expect the businesses they patronize to feel the same way.

The socially responsible businessperson is also willing to admit that he is not perfect. No business has a perfect record when it comes to looking out for the world and its inhabitants. But business owners and executives are expected to keep their eyes open and recognize mistakes when they spot them. And they are expected to own up to them rather than trying to cover them up. And most importantly, they are expected to take steps to fix them once they're discovered.

You Reap What You Sow

“Do good, reap good; do evil, reap evil.”
Chinese proverb

In some ways, social responsibility is easier for small businesses than large ones. In others, it's more difficult.

For instance, small businesses rarely have a notable impact on the environment. But their suppliers might have a larger carbon footprint than they should, and that reflects negatively on the smaller business, even though it has no control over that. But businesses that make a good faith effort to do the right thing, and make sure that those they have dealings with do as well, will be rewarded with praise and loyalty from their customers.

Like so many other aspects of business, it's a matter of reaping what you sow.

To Your Success!
Jeremy Gislason
SureFireWealth INC

You are free to share this article with others by linking to it from your blogs, websites or newsletters. You may also reprint this article in your newsletter, blogs or websites as long as nothing is altered and the resource box is included. MindmaptoRiches Affiliates may use your own affiliate link in the resource box.

Author's Bio: 

Good news! Membership site expert Jeremy Gislason is giving away FREE 30-day access to eleven of his most popular and useful five-star internet marketing membership sites! Join the lucky few to have full top-level lifetime access to each one of these internet marketing for home business sites at http://www.privilegedmemberships.com/