The do good feel good phenomenon is similar to the domino effect.
Person A does something good for Person B.
Person B gets a ‘happiness high’ and wants to spread their positive feelings, so they do something good for Person C.
Queue the chain reaction.
When happy dominos start falling, positive feelings go viral and become contagious. And what we’re left with is a bunch of people who feel good because they’ve done something good for someone else.
This idea of doing good and feeling good can be manifested personally, but also organizationally too.
Organizationally, we call it social responsibility.
Social responsibility is, “the idea that businesses should balance profit-making activities with activities that benefit society.”
Though this is common knowledge today, companies didn’t always see social responsibility in this light.
In 1970, The New York Times published an article by Fulton Friedman, which quoted “there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…”
It’s safe to say that things have changed a bit since 1970.
To Friedman’s point, yes, it’s important to turn a profit. But that shouldn’t be a company’s only focus.
The focus should be big picture oriented and boundless. It should be about the journey of the profit; how it was earned and how it affected their community along the way.
When organizations are mindful of their influence on stakeholders, such as vendors, suppliers, and the environment, they’re taking ownership of their power and acknowledging the impact of their choices on the larger world.
Social responsibility activities could also lead to employees having a happier mindset about work.
The Fairness Theory suggests “employee attitudes can be influenced by the extent to which they consider their employing organization’s actions to be fair.” So when companies lead by example and act in a socially responsible way, employees are inspired to follow suit.
Research shows when staff engages with social responsibility initiatives, they actually perform better at their jobs and have 55% higher morale.
Since social responsibility is such an important topic, we asked Bennett Wetch from the global leader of socio-economic and environmental sustainability standards, Fair Trade USA, to sit down with us and provide a few tips that all businesses can learn from.
Tip #1: Define What You Can Control
Sometimes getting into the mix of social responsibility can be overwhelming – there are so many programs, initiatives, and activities to choose from and it’s easy to want to do all of them.
But before diving into too many commitments, take a couple of minutes to define your area of focus. Choosing two or three things that fit squarely into your business model is a good way to begin a trial run, measure results, and make any necessary changes.
Airline carrier, Virgin Atlantic, chooses to define what they can control. The company realized that their flights were producing a lot of carbon emissions, so they decided to focus their social responsibility efforts around lowering them. In 2007, they reduced total aircraft carbon emissions by 22% and have partnered with LanzaTech to develop low carbon fuels for the future. Choosing to focus on reducing carbon emissions is a good fit for this company because it’s something they have control over and can make a measurable difference in.
Tip #2: Define Your Impact
After you pick a few social responsibility areas to focus on, work with your organization to break down each person’s individual impact.
Sitting down with team members and having a conversation or asking them to fill out an exercise about how their role directly influences social responsibility efforts will make them feel appreciated and help them understand that all of their actions – big or small – truly matter.
It may be tricky to pinpoint impact, especially if your teammate doesn’t work directly in the social responsibility department. To get around this, ask them to create a list of all the ways they think their role contributes.
Items on the list can be anything from choosing to compost lunch instead of throwing it out, volunteering with your team instead of going to a happy hour, or brainstorming ways to get more people at the office involved.
Once each person sees their direct impact, they’ll have a sense of ownership and feel inclined to work towards the social responsibility goals.
Tip #3: Recognize Small Decisions Matter
Companies make a lot of purchases. Whether it’s supplying the office with treats and sparkling water or buying plane tickets to a conference, all spending decisions matter.
Anytime your organization spends money, you’re making a choice about what you value and support.
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” ― Anna Lappé
Small items like coffee, tea, or utensils are often an afterthought when purchasing because the prices are low. But these purchases matter a lot more than you might think.
For example, many parts of the coffee and tea supply chain don’t provide fair wages or working conditions for farmers and staff. Choosing the socially responsible option like Fair Trade certified products are around the same price as non-certified products, but the money spent goes farther and has a greater positive impact on stakeholders involved.
Tip #4: Think Beyond Your Company
It’s easy to get tunnel vision and only see within the four walls of your company. But here’s a challenge: think beyond it. Think about all of the things that enable your business to run.
Imagine all of the people you rely on, such as partners, vendors, and suppliers. Instead of thinking of them as part of the supply chain, think of them as your employees and treat them fairly.
It’s essential to have a big picture mindset and really think about how all actions and decisions affect those around us. Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, famously said, “The business of business is improving the state of the world.”
And improving the state of the world starts with each of us – doing something good for someone else.