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Social responsibility

It should be a core consideration for the new generation of business owners, Francesca James says Social responsibility

Consumers today care about more than simply quality and cost when it comes to making a purchasing decision. More than generations before them, Generation Z is interested in what businesses stand for, how their products are made and the environmental and social impact involved.

While not true of every consumer, research shows a large shift in customers wanting to know that their money is contributing to something good. A recent Nielson study revealed that nearly two thirds of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainably made products.

Integral

While many businesses have long supported initiatives that benefit the environment, the community or charitable causes, many of today’s entrepreneurs are going further, making social responsibility integral to their business model and daily actions.

We launched an ‘Entrepreneur for Good’ category at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards last year and were overwhelmed with the entries it received. We also noticed a marked increase of social responsibility as a vital thread in entrepreneurs’ stories, even when they hadn’t self identified as an entrepreneur ‘doing good’.

Responsibility

The saying ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ certainly seems to be something that’s been adopted by firms and their entrepreneurs, who are very much aware that their business affords them certain privileges and influence to make a positive impact.

The overall winner of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards in 2018 was Spectrum Collections, a company that offers a range of make-up brushes, tools and accessories, which was set up by sisters Sophie and Hannah Pycroft.

From May 1 the company became a member of the charitable organisation 1% for the Planet. This means that one per cent of the revenue from selected product ranges will be donated to charity, the chosen one for Spectrum being Plastic Bank.

Sophie says: “We chose Plastic Bank as our key partner because they’re helping raise communities out of poverty by monetising plastic collection.

“This seems like a perfect fit for us, not only because it helps to clean up plastics from the ocean and landscape, but also because those in poor communities who are doing the collections will get paid for their work. It’s a real win-win.”

This builds on Spectrum’s work towards single use plastic reduction in its own production.

Hannah says: “All the packaging in Boots stores is reusable rather than throwaway and we’re always choosing greener materials where we possibly can. For example, a PU material instead of PVC, which is much less toxic in the production process. It costs us more, but we’d prefer to make that choice.”

Values

Spectrum’s founders know consumers don’t just buy into a brand for the product, but also the values the brand stands for. Spectrum has always resonated with customers for its cruelty free and vegan values.

Environmental concerns within the fashion and beauty sector - particularly regarding single use plastics - has added momentum to Spectrum’s ethical approach. By lending their support, Sophie and Hannah have strengthened relationships with consumers with a similar outlook.

Get Wonky was another winner at last year’s awards. By using misshapen fruit and veg, it supports the farmers who would be unable to sell their wonky produce.

Rather than aiming for financial prosperity, the founders say they are committed to creating a more sustainable future.

Co-founders Maciek Kacprsyk and Karina Sudenyte explain: “Sustainability will lead to happiness - it is more than important to fight for a better world, to contribute to charitable initiatives and for a brand to match with its customers’ values.”

For Adam Younis, founder of charity Penny Appeal, corporate social responsibility is: “An opportunity instead of a chore.”

“A business that invests back into communities and promotes sustainability is much more likely to engage emerging markets that increasingly look to ethically minded companies,” Adam says.

“We have integrated charitable causes into the company’s DNA.”

Alignment

For social responsibility to work, businesses need a cause that aligns with their objectives, personal passions, or both.

“For business owners, it’s paramount to find a social cause that resonates with them personally, not just from a brand perspective,” Sophie and Hannah say, whose focus on plastic reduction comes from their love of animals and their determination to create cruelty free products that are not harmful to any natural ecosystems.

Adam adds: “No matter what your industry, there are ways to align to social causes that conform to business objectives.

“You’ll find charities are flexible at co-creating bespoke campaigns that serve all parties’ interests, allowing your company to save costs and embrace innovation to gain a crucial edge over competitors.”

Francesca James is the co-founder of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Award. To find out more visit www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com Read more like this

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