By 2019 Millennials will surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation, which means they will control an ever-increasing share of the purchasing power in the U.S. and be the prevalent demographic in the workplace. This makes it imperative for your business to take the preferences of this generation into account. One important Millennial inclination you can't ignore is the desire to both buy from and work for companies that give back.

But that doesn't mean you need to transform your organization into a social entrepreneurship startup or launch a companywide volunteer program overnight. To have a meaningful impact that resonates with this generation, your goal should be to create a company culture that considers your impact on social and environmental issues and to strive for a positive net effect.

Smart Ways to Practice Corporate Do-Gooding

What are the best ways to practice social responsibility in your business? You can learn a lot from business leaders who are already making social responsibility a way of life. Below are a few tips you can glean from their efforts that can make a lasting impact at your company.

1. Partner with existing charities.

Your community has needs that local charities are already addressing. What can you do to enhance those efforts?

Pariveda Solutions, an IT and management consulting firm and an Inc. 5000 honoree, recently partnered with the University of Notre Dame to volunteer for Feed Indiana and the Food 4 Kids program. Jaclyne Hertzfeld, manager at Pariveda, says the event promoted a positive work culture and also helped fulfill her personal desire to create more opportunities for employees to have a meaningful impact on their local communities.

Hertzfeld explained: "By packing bags full of ready-to-eat foods, we hoped to ease the concern of the kids who may be worrying about where their next meal is coming from. Kids should be concentrating on learning in school, not what they'll eat over the weekend."

2. Team up with other business leaders on community projects.

If you do want to go out and start something new, working with other companies in your industry or region can be a good way to spread the workload and build meaningful relationships. Who can you partner with to make an impact?

Three technology CEOs in St. Louis, Missouri, joined forces to form GlobalHack, which aims to drive social impact through local technology idea competitions and educational outreach. The organization, which has received significant financial support from community business leaders and companies, regularly hosts events that both deliver computer science education to the local community and develop new software solutions that solve social problems. In October 2018, GlobalHack VII will focus on challenges in refugee and immigrant communities.

Large events like hackathons sometimes get flack for coming up with great ideas but not following through with actions to make those ideas a reality. Matt Menietti, GlobalHack's executive director, affirms that the organization "will work with our community partners to ensure the most promising solutions are implemented, either as an addition to an existing platform or as a standalone application."

3. Change your current operations.

Sometimes you can have a larger impact by making internal changes to your existing operations rather than starting something new. In a world where consumers are paying close attention to the actions a company takes and what that means for the world, this can actually be a very important risk reduction measure as well.

Large manufacturers are starting to pay this issue serious attention. PepsiCo has an expansive sustainability program that touches everything from manufacturing to recycling, while Nike has spent millions in research and development to remove greenhouse gases from its manufacturing process.

Nike, in particular, has seen numerous business benefits from its investment, including a new reputation for sustainability taking the place of its previous negative association with sweatshops. "Nike's sustainability reports are noteworthy for their strategic significance. Nike is one of relatively few large, public companies making investments in potentially game-changing innovations for the sake of sustainability," says Lynn Paine, John G. McLean professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

At a basic level, giving back can a great promotional tool (especially locally), a good team- and skill-building exercise for employees, and, potentially, an income tax benefit. On a larger scale, socially focused businesses are finding great success in the marketplace while tackling global issues. Why not join the trend?

Published on: Apr 16, 2018