I love the word responsibility. So often we talk about our rights and our freedoms--which are important--and yet so often we forget to talk about the responsibility we have to each other, to future descendants, and to our environment. So thank you for the great question!
I think the most important thing in making a business socially responsible is to design the model with impact at its center.
While doing something is always better than doing nothing, I believe real responsibility comes from deep and honest examination of your core business and figuring out how to make that good--not taking profit you've created with an irresponsible business and then donating it to a good cause later. Responsibility isn't really transferable like that in my mind.
If you build a company that makes money by having a positive social impact, you don't have to choose between generating profits and creating social good, as they're intrinsically connected. As for existing companies, the first step toward making your business more socially responsible is identifying the varying ways in which your company impacts people and the planet. Find your weak points, and build from there.
The way I have thought through this for Hipcamp is by thinking into the future-- how can I be a good ancestor? If Hipcamp is wildly successful, twenty years from now, what impact have we had? How can I make that better? And what negative unintended impacts have we created?
This thought exercise was a huge part of how Hipcamp got into private land in the first place. Originally, we just featured public land, and we received feedback that we were just sending more people to over-crowded spaces and creating negative impacts.
Our mission was to get more people outside--and so when I thought about our impact into the future, it became obvious that creating new places for people to get outside was really the only way to fulfill our mission at scale while having a positive impact. And the best way to create new places for people to get outside is by unlocking access to private lands! The benefit of creating income to protect those private lands that often represent critical habitat for wilderness corridors was also very exciting.
Another important aspect of creating a socially responsible business is to take care of our team and really put people first. It has to start at the center if you want it to radiate outwards into the world. By being socially responsible to your teammates, you can then expect them to treat your customers with the same level of respect and care.
Finally, creating a mission, vision and values that are well-understood and referenced throughout the company is key. The reality is as you're scaling your company, the decisions that will determine if your business is "socially responsible" will be made increasingly by people other than you. Having a culture that makes it clear this is expected and valued is the only way to scale this sense of responsibility. You can .
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