Chances are, you have heard of Ben & Jerry’s, Kenneth Cole, and Warby Parker. If so, then you get the concept behind socially responsible business models. We celebrate these large companies for their generosity and for making meaningful impacts in the world. But, really, what they have done is align their business missions with social causes. And aligning a business to do good in the world is a scale-able task and feasible for small businesses.

Besides the feeling of purpose that business owners cultivate by positively impacting our world in a purpose driven way, good deeds are also good for business. The Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility reports that 50% of consumers will pay more for products or services provided by socially responsible companies. More than 65% of employees prefer to work for a company that contributes regularly to a social cause.

But you own a struggling, small business. Your business doesn’t have the budget for charitable causes. How can your local business possibly impact the world?

Here are three business models that can be easily adopted to get your business on the path to social responsibility:


1. Portion of Proceeds

Pledging a portion of proceeds to a community cause is a great introduction to social responsibility. There are limitless ways to put this model into practice, but here are a few ideas:

  • Run a marketing campaign with one of your business’ lesser known products and advertise that a portion of the proceeds will benefit a local charity.
  • Adopt a policy that 1% of all revenue will be donated to a local charity.
  • Host an event and commit a portion of the proceeds to a non-profit cause.

Image Outfitters, a promotional products business, adjusted their business model and now, 10 percent of all new customer orders are donated to a charity of the customer’s choice.  Not only can the donated proceeds be categorized as a tax deduction, in many cases, but your customers will develop a warmer impression of your business.

What Your Business Gets: Publicity, increased business, new levels of customer loyalty.

What Your Business Gives: Donations to a local non-profit charity that resonates with you.


2. BOGO: Buy-One-Give-One

A bit more tricky, a BOGO business has socially responsibility at the core of its business practices. BOGO business models can be structured in a few ways, but, basically, for every product sold, one is donated to someone in need. Warby Parker and Tom’s Shoes are two popular examples.

If your business provides a product or service that could also benefit a non-profit organization or disadvantaged group of people, the BOGO business model will work for you.

What Your Business Gets: Publicity, increased business, global partnerships, and increased customer loyalty.

What Your Business Gives: Products to disadvantaged people in need.


3. Employee Volunteerism

Another way to demonstrate social responsibility, without affecting your business’ bottom line, is to develop a program that compensates employees for volunteer hours. Partner with a local organization, like Big Brothers Big Sisters or the local soup kitchen and offer to pay employees for a few volunteer hours each month.

Salesforce offers employees 56 total paid hours per year of volunteering. And, as a bonus, for each employee who completes all seven days, they gift a $1000 grant to the non-profit of the employee’s choice. Adopting employee volunteer programs cultivates a healthy work/life balance for employees and earns “socially responsible” cool points for your small business.

What Your Business Gets: Publicity and a more balanced employee base.

What Your Business Gives: Support to employees and the community in the form of tax deductible donations.


No excuses. If you are a business owner who wants to create a socially responsible business culture, make it happen. Start small and grow. There are limitless ways to position your small business as a socially responsible staple in your community. Step one is to decide which cause matters to you, commit to it, and choose a business model. Socially responsible small businesses are win-win opportunities.


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