Business that Benefits: Two tips for creating more social impact in and with your work

A better way of doing business is being born. And those who have are already adopted or are seeking to adopt conscious approaches to business are the midwives for this movement.

For too long business has been solely focused on making profit. But in today’s society that’s just not cutting it anymore — people are looking for more in their work. Not just young people, but people from all walks of life are looking for more meaning and purpose in their lives, and business owners are too.

It’s more and more common to hear of people abandoning their careers to find something with more meaning. We see young people demanding more from their leaders. A study by The Society for Human Resource Management found that 94 percent of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause. Things are changing and you’re either in or you’re out. You can’t opt for partial participation in this movement. As an owner, if you’re half in that will only hurt you in the long run — trust me, I’ve tried it.

In this new era, businesses have a critical role to play in making things better for people by making more mindful and socially responsible business decisions. It’s time business leaders double down on their commitment to bettering communities and the planet, and take these just as seriously as profit—if not more so.

Here are three tips for infusing your purpose into your business and optimizing your impact.

Nurture your ecosystem

For those of us in the conscious business space, collaboration is key to breaking down long-perpetuated ideas of constant growth, competition, and the dichotomous existence of winning versus losing. Collaboration is also necessary in creating an interdependent cooperative economy.

We realized a few years ago was that it wasn’t enough for us to just build a socially conscious business. If we really do want to reimagine business to be more equitable, we need to contribute to the conscious business ecosystem. That means connecting with and mentoring others who are working with the same ethos — even if they are technically your competitors.

We often partner with companies that work in the same space that we do: we talk shop, refer clients, and share best practices. And what we’ve found is that these partnerships can mutually beneficial. We give each other a heads up when there is a client opportunity that would be a better fit for the other company or when there is an event we think the other business owner might like to attend. There’s no need to be cut-throat if you feel secure in the value you provide. Collaborating in this way only makes each business and the community stronger.

Rethink professional development

I’ve taken many business seminars and programs, and not one of them was focused on growing first on impact and second on profits. While at a recent conference where we heard from a bunch of mission-driven entrepreneurs, one startling fact was clear — there’s no roadmap to doing business differently and with impact at its center. We’re all making it up as we go along. Some of us a modeling others we admire, some of us are using the B Corp assessment, some of us a learning by trying and failing. There are measurements, degrees, groups, but no accessible business course designed with impact at its core.

If you want to do things differently, you’ll have to learn things differently from people who’ve figured it out. We’ve been doing this for so long, it feels like it’s just the way things are and we forget that most people are just getting started.

We figured out that when you make business decisions purely on profit, you sacrifice environmental and human standards. It’s NOT sustainable or ethical. I won’t do it. And you don’t have to. And it’s not enough for us to be the change we want to see in the world, we have to CREATE the change.