Whether to differentiate yourself among your customers, to establish yourself as an employer of choice, or to invest in the communities where you operate, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should be a strategic focus for for-profit companies.
That’s why The Upside Foundation of Canada, Interac, and Elevate hosted a Social Impact Roundtable, gathering leaders from top Canadian startups and organizations, to discuss meaningful ways organizations can give back to their employees and the communities around them.
Here are three things every for-profit company should know about social impact:
#1. For-profit companies can find many creative ways to make a meaningful social impact.
According to host Jennifer Couldrey, Executive Director of The Upside Foundation of Canada, organizations tend to fall into one of three general categories.
- A traditional business that engages in charitable giving and CSR programs.
- A business that integrates CSR into its core business model.
- A company that exists to solve a social problem.
Erin Bury is the co-founder and CEO of Willful, a startup that has successfully navigated the union of profit and social good.
“It’s not that we’re necessarily a social impact company by definition,” Erin explains. But I think we’ve always had this larger mission of finding a way to give back in whatever ways made sense for our product.”
Willful helps people draft online wills. To further champion their social impact initiatives, the company offers a “give to charity” option in their wills. So far, people have left over 7,000 gifts to charity on Willful, illustrating the potential of a for-profit organization.
TipTapPay, another for-profit firm, has put its own spin on corporate social responsibility. Instead of embedding CSR directly into their fundamental
business model, the company has split into two organizations: TipTap – the company, and the TipTap Foundation – a registered charity.
Founder and CEO Heather Payne described the Juno College of Technology’s innovative income sharing agreement approach to tuition, an initiative launched to equalize who gets to go to school.
“For us, social impact is all about inclusion and equity for our students and for our team so we put a lot of thought into how to make our programs inclusive and the classroom experience welcoming because we aim to serve people underrepresented in tech,” she explained.
Willful, TipTap, and Juno prove how much traditional for-profit organizations can move the needle on social issues.
#2. Social impact initiatives can improve your internal operations.
Job hunters are increasingly seeking out positions that align with their personal missions and values; they want to work for people that care.
Creating CSR initiatives may not only improve social well-being outside of your company – it might attract talent to your organization.
Willful’s Erin Bury explains, “[CSR] helps with external communications and brand perception, but it also really helps with reminding people, especially when they’re making a start-up salary, of why they’re working for you.”
#3. Improving your organization’s social impact doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Seema Sanghavi is the founder of Cooks Who Feed, a startup that produces kitchen textiles under a give-back model.
She knows better than anyone the stresses of balancing commercial pressures while trying to have enough revenue to survive.
But CSR doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It doesn’t require a massive overhaul of the organization.
Willful has taken a simple approach, offering employees one paid day off every year to volunteer with the charity of their choice and sharing volunteering opportunities in Slack and at town hall meetings.
In today’s climate, social impact and corporate responsibility are more integral than ever before, and this is hopefully the first of many conversations Elevate facilitates around these ever-important topics.