Is your business socially responsible?

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Social Responsibility isn’t a chore, it’s the core of your business

Social Responsibility isn’t a chore, it’s the core of your business

Here's why.

When you are starting up a business, your focus is on the practical things that will get you off the ground: the venue design, staffing, or menus.

But this is a very important stage in your business for another reason, too: this is the time that you should be considering your core values, your purpose, and your business’ reason for existing.

Sure, you might be on a mission to serve up the best coffee in town - but what about all the other components, such as helping out your local community? Or ensuring you only use fair trade coffee? Or making sure your staff have a safe and encouraging work environment? These are your other missions as a business owner that are equally as important as profit or sales - and they should be valued as such.

This is what we call ‘social responsibility’.

A lot of small business owners in the hospitality industry find the concept of social responsibility to be quite overwhelming - to many, it can feel like a compromise, or a distraction. Or just a lot of money!

So we spoke with social responsibility expert Tim O’Brien to get the inside scoop on what social responsibility looks like in the real world, and how hard it is really to introduce to your business.

In 2016, Tim founded a company called Hatched, which helps businesses realise their greater plans for their business, their staff, the environment, and their community - and then turn these dreams into a reality.

Tim is quick to point out that social responsibility will look different for every business.

“It’s essentially just to do good in the world,” says Tim, “and that is based on what your purpose is. So if that’s a social purpose, it might be around working with a specific group. Or it could be an environmental purpose, around reducing food waste. Or it might be around buying local, or buying fair trade, and supporting different businesses.”

But the challenge, says Tim, is ensuring that your specific commitment runs throughout your business from top to bottom, and feels consistent with your brand.

“Social responsibility is looking at your business and making sure that everything you’re doing essentially aligns to the values that you and your staff have, and the purpose that you have in the world,” says Tim.

“It’s taking care of the things that are important to your business, your community, and your staff.”

What part of the community do you want to help?

So, as a small business, how are youmeant to pinpoint what your core values are? Aren’t they the same for everyone?

Well, not quite. The idea of finding a social responsibility cause to align with is being specific - for example, general view of ‘helping the community’ isn’t going to get you anywhere, fast.

What part of your community do you want to help? Is there a specific demographic of disadvantaged or needy people you want to focus on? Will you work with an existing charity, or start up your own program?

Figuring this out, says Tim, should be easy once you figure out what gets you out of bed in the morning. He says to ask yourself ‘what do I stand for?’ and build out your initiatives from there.

These initiatives can go one of two ways: aligning with an existing organisation such as OzHarvest, for example, or creating your own. (If you have a franchise, chances are your company will have a preexisting or preferred charity or organisation to work with.)

Given the nature of the industry - food and drink - a great place to start with your business is looking at how you use your produce. Do you have leftover food that could be donated? Is there a better way to reduce your carbon footprint in the food production? Are you using plastic takeaway containers and cutlery instead of recyclable? Secondly, how does the ‘theme’ or narrative of your business lend itself to a certain societal need? Tim gives the example of a Mexican restaurant.

“If there is a particular theme to your restaurant - say you’re a Mexican restaurant - there might be something really cool about your connection to Mexico or the people there, and the food, and celebrating it,” says Tim. “Maybe you could find an organisation that promotes what’s happening in Mexico and gives money to that cause, and telling the story of the Mexican people.”

Clearly, social responsibility can be as local as community internships, or as far-flung as international aid.

And the benefits are felt both ways - it’s been proven that brands with clear social responsibility programs are more successful.

Younger generations are looking for meaning, as both employees and customers. They want to know their time and money is going towards a good cause.

So think twice when writing the rulebook of your new business - moving beyond a profit-driven scheme and into one that values people, the planet, and your personal values will enjoy a far longer and happier shelf life than one that doesn’t.

This story is republished with permission from the Silverchef Hospitality Industry Success Index Report 2018

Fred Hollows Foundation

help The Fred Hollows Foundation prevent avoidable blindness

We believe in social responsibility and in fact, since 2004, Sydney Commercial Kitchens has donated to the Fred Hollows Foundation. Initially we donated $2 from every sale but that was increased to $3 in 2007.

This means that when you purchase through us you also give the gift of eyesight to someone less fortunate than yourself and help the FHF in their quest to eradicate avoidable blindness.

Donations so far have allowed life changing surgery to approximately 1,450 deserving people.

You can read more about the Fred Hollows Foundation here.

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