Social activism isn’t limited to individuals, but businesses can be socially aware as well. Many companies use their influence and wealth to help better society by giving to charities, using sustainable practices and providing their employees with fair wages.
A business that gives back to the community is one that is a socially conscious company.
What is Social Consciousness?
A person or an organization that has a social conscious is aware of the state of their surroundings. It may be within their immediate community, their city, state, country, or the state of the world. They usually show concern and compassion for others who may not have the advantages they do.
Socially conscious people or organizations know that people deal with issues every day like:
- Social Injustices
- Polluted Water
- Racial Discrimination
- Unfair Labor Practices
- Poor Healthcare
In an effort to help correct these issues, companies will pick causes to champion and give to charities that support those causes. Some businesses and business owners, like Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, form foundations to help the causes in which they believe.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Gates, through his company, began his charitable giving in 1983 when they raised $17,000 to give to charity. The company now raises millions of dollars and gave over $125 million in 2015 to over 18,000 schools and nonprofit organizations around the world.
Some of the causes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports are global health programs to work on reducing the risk of death from diseases like pneumonia, meningitis, tuberculosis, and neonatal sepsis by developing vaccines and treatments for them.
They also support education, work to prevent and reduce homelessness, and help more students get a college education in the United States. They have offices in Seattle, China, Washington DC, India, Europe, and Africa that helps develop policy in the US and other countries.
Levi Strauss Foundation
The well-known jeans company, which started in 1853, helps advance the causes of people living with HIV/AIDS by helping to address the problems of discrimination in countries like China. They have a program in the US that helps low-income women start food businesses, and another program helps women in Guatemala fight poverty through artisan cooperatives.
The foundation also helps low-income women start green businesses and educates them about healthcare in the factories in which they work. Another one of their projects is called Water< Less to address water scarcity around the world.
The foundation is addressing the issue by trying to develop fabrics for their clothing line that doesn’t require as much water to wash them. For some clothing styles, the program can reduce water consumption by up to 96%.
Ben & Jerry’s Foundation
The ice cream company out of Vermont is well-known for its socially conscious business practices. They buy their dairy from local farmers, and they do not use milk from cows that are given the Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone.
Their foundation works to affect social change and to develop leaders, take direct action to fight for social change, and bring awareness to those causes. They’ve also supported projects with charities like:
- Occupy Wall Street
- Rock the Vote
- Children’s Defense Fund
- Farm Aid
One of the most popular beverage companies in the world has a foundation that supports many causes. In the US, they have programs to develop community programs for young people, arts and culture programs, and economic development within the US.
In Africa and Latin American countries, the foundation helps develop HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programs to reduce the spread of the disease. Coca-Cola promotes access to clean drinking water, helps replenish water resources, and has hygiene educations programs in Africa.
They encourage their employees to give to charities by matching their donations to qualified organizations on a two for one basis. They also have a program that offers emergency relief in the aftermath of natural disasters.
The telecom’s foundation focuses mainly on advancing educational opportunities to those living in the US. Their program, called AT&T Aspire, works to reduce high school dropout rates and promote higher education.
They work with the educational website Udacity to subsidize nano degrees, including certification in IT so that people can find good-paying jobs. They also work with organizations to provide chances for underprivileged youth to learn skills like coding, and they have an online mentoring program to help students achieve academic success.
Many other socially conscious companies have started foundations or give to charities to help resolve some of the issues facing people today.
Forming foundations allows businesses to financially support charities instead of operating their own programs. So, instead of starting another charity, they can support those that already have the infrastructures in place for the causes they support.
Private foundations also have flexibility regarding how they use their money if it is structured as a nonprofit organization. They can support several charities and work on solutions for their causes with other organizations and the governments in countries where they find a need.
Environmentally Conscious Companies
Many companies have put forth the effort to make their business practices more sustainable and safe for the environment. By using recycled materials, they can not only help save trees and reduce the impact on the environment, but they save money on material costs.
Some businesses make sure their products can be recycled after they’ve been used to keep materials out of landfills. Still others, such as food companies, are reducing their use of hazardous chemicals by developing greener farming practices and growing more organic foods.
Here are some examples of businesses with environmentally friendly practices.
This shoe company only uses vegan materials for producing their shoes. Some of their materials include:
- Organic Cotton
- Natural Hemp
- Recycled Polyester for the shoe lining and insoles.
They also package their shoes in boxes made from 80% recycled consumer waste and use soy ink for their printing on the packaging.
Many food companies are increasing their number of organic products and/or using more sustainable farming practices to produce their foods. Beyond Meat creates “meat products” from plant-based proteins.
Their products include hamburgers, chicken strips, and sausages that are healthier for humans because there are no GMOs, hormones, soy, gluten, or antibiotics in them. Plant-based “meats” are also lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol.
Their products can help the environment as they reduce greenhouse gases, such as methane, by not using animal-based products, they save on water and reduce the number of animals that are slaughtered to produce foods.
The world’s largest producer of consumer electronics has changed many of its practices to be more environmentally friendly. The paper in their packaging is now 99% recyclable or made with sustainable practices. They also encourage consumers to recycle their used or old Apple products.
The company agreed to a deal with a developer of solar farms to power its offices, stores, data centers, and headquarters in California with solar energy. This venture is the largest procurement deal for solar energy, other than utility companies, in history.
Reasons for Giving
Along with having a strong social conscious, many businesses have ulterior motives for becoming involved with charities or developing charitable foundations.
When businesses give to charitable organizations, they can take contributions off their taxes as long as the Internal Revenue Service recognizes the charity. When businesses form foundations, those foundations can qualify for tax-exempt status as long as they meet IRS criteria.
Contributing to charities is good PR for businesses, especially if they’ve had criticism in the past for some of their company’s practices. For instance, the Coca-Cola company, as well as other beverage companies, have faced public criticism about their misuse of water resources.
However, their work to replenish water resources and provide access to safe drinking water can help to turn those opinions in their favor.
Attracts More Business
Gaining a good reputation for their charitable activities can lead to selling more products. Consumers will support businesses who are environmentally and socially conscious. In fact, surveys show that customers are 85% more likely to buy from companies who are associated with charities.
Good for Morale
By matching employee contributions to charities and encouraging charitable activities, like fundraising, at work and on their own time, companies help to raise the morale of their employees. People feel good about giving, especially when they are supported at work. Plus, it can help businesses attract more qualified employees.
Provides Marketing Opportunities
When a company sponsors a charitable event in their community, it is a good way to get market their brand. Clients feel good about being associated with the company and people who may be looking for the products or services they sell will consider them when they are ready to make a purchase.
An environmentally or socially conscious company will draw more interest when news of their charitable deeds gets out. People who support those causes will be more likely to buy from them, and it can help them financially by reducing their tax burden.