13 Benefits You Can Count on if You’re a Company with a Social Mission

Most people think that a social mission* is a money drain on a business.  Conversely, I’ve found that it helps a company grow. Here are 13 ways that your business can profit from integrating a social mission.

  1. People will talk: consumers, competitors, investors, suppliers and the press.
  2. Employee morale goes up.  People like to work for a larger purpose and know that their work makes a difference.
  3. Consumers prefer companies that make a positive impact on the world.  Two out of three consumers will switch brands if one works with ‘good causes’ and the other does not (Edelman, 2009).
  4. You’ll look like a future-bound company.  Talked-about, contemporary and successful companies represent more than just a product or service.
  5. Spend less on marketing.  Your mission will do your marketing. A line of grocery products founded and once produced by Paul Newman (Newman’s Own) is a somewhat banal story that merits only a mention in the press. The fact that the company donates 100% of profits to charity is a story that sticks, intrigues and encourages participation through purchase.
  6. Attract talent.  People want to work for employees that care. A social cause is indicative of a favorable workplace.
  7. Attract young talent.  Teach for America was the top employer of graduating seniors from Brown, Georgetown, University of Chicago, Trinity College and about a dozen other schools in 2009. 16% of Yale’s graduating class applied for one of the most challenging and low-paying jobs to be found in America.
  8. Keep talent.  When employees are part of a larger mission and feel their contributions make an impact in the world, they’re engaged, proud and motivated.
  9. Spend less on energy, water and waste disposal.  You’ll save money by reducing energy and water consumption and waste production. Making less waste and reusing water or materials costs less to buy and less to haul away.
  10. Gain an edge with your suppliers.  Stonyfield Farm pays their organic suppliers a floor price that won’t ever drop, protecting their suppliers from market swings and production hiccups. In return, when supply for organic milk or sugar outpaces demand, Stonyfield is first on the delivery list and can buy at a fair price.
  11. Your company’s initiatives will be modeled as more companies realize the benefits of having a social mission.
  12. Exercise your political or social voice.  Championing a cause transforms your company from a mere provider or a product or service to an influencer.
  13. Have fun.  Science proves what most of us know–doing good feels amazing. We feel happy, enlivened and creative. Channel these feelings back into your business and you’ve got a real competitive edge.

*What is a social mission?
A core component (or components) of your business that yields a positive impact on the environment, society or a specific cause or issue.  Newman’s Own, Stonyfield Farms, TOMS Shoes and Clif Bar are several examples of companies with brawny social missions.

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  1. Tristan January 5, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    I think you’re spot on with those top 3. Great post!

  2. Joe Waters January 5, 2010 at 7:31 am #

    This is great, Olivia! You are so right. Embracing a social mission is not a drain on a company, it’s an asset. Sure, it requires some work, but the returns are well worth the effort.

    I like this too because you could cross out “social mission” and plug-in “cause marketing.” May I do just that? I’d like to use this with clients. I promise to give you credit!

  3. elaine cohen January 5, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    hi Olivia, some great thoughts… a couple i might add are risk management – typically, businesses who are in tune with their stakeholders (as any social mission requires) have a heads-up on potential risks, and a better platform for safeguarding, and the extension of that is they are in a better position to identify new business opportunities. The other thing is that changing or developing the culture of the business to one which includes a “social mission” inevitably brings new challenges, and forces people do develop new awareness, skills and competencies, which is also usually a good thing. Finally, i think, another advantage is that you just sleep better at night.

    This being said, I want to rebalance a little. A “social mission” , if it is a campaign or a project or a cause marketing approach, will not yield any of the above benefits if it is done in isolation. A company who embarks on a project for social good, but neglects to address other social or environmental issues in the business will soon lose credibility. For a “social mission” to succeed, over time, it has to “”be” the business, not a part of the business. It has to be be so clearly identified with the core brand or value proposition that to remove it would significantly decrease the brand value. Think of Ben and Jerrys without their strong community positioning, think of Body Shop without activism, think of Timberland without environmental stewardship .. it doesnt work. All of these businesses, and a few more i could list, and ones that you listed, have “social/environmental mission” (we might call it “sustainability” ) as an equal part of their brand identity and equity. Which is why they get all of the benefits you list.

    thanks for great food for thought!

  4. Ashley Jablow January 5, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Hi Olivia, great post. These are all terrific benefits that companies can enjoy after successfully and effectively incorporating social responsibility into their businesses.
    The unhappy tension that often exists, however, comes when companies want to quantify “by how much” social responsibility will improve sales, boost morale, and get consumers talking. We know in our guts that social responsibility is good for business (not to mention our communities and our environment) but how do we prove it? For companies just starting to dip their toes in this water, coming up with the hard data to back up our instincts is the tough part.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. admin January 5, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Ashley, you hit the nail on the head here. I am bringing Elaine Cohen on to talk about reporting and metrics. It’s important to advocate for the issue with more than a gut feeling. What have you found in your research and work to be effective ways to have this conversation and report on it?

  6. admin January 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Joe, absolutely. That’s a terrific compliment. Thanks for your thoughts.

  7. admin January 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    Elaine, risk management and skill development are terrific additions! Thank you. Agreed that a social mission only exists when its integrated–a company that pollutes at will yet has the ultimate employee volunteer program does not have a social *mission*–they have a socially-oriented program that is disconnected in the eyes of their employees, shareholders, consumers and critiques. Thanks for these insights!

  8. Arpan November 21, 2010 at 5:49 am #

    Great list! One thing I would like to add is that companies can actually SAVE money by integrating a social mission. For instance, reducing waste or increasing energy efficiency. That’s what we’re trying to help organizations do here at PrintEco.