This op-ed piece comes from Convene CEO Ryan Simonetti and was originally published on his LinkedIn. Click here to see more of Ryan’s writing, and click “Follow” to be the first to see them!
Building a great company is about more than driving profits. It’s about giving back to the communities you operate in and to society as a whole. The true test of leadership is not about what you’re willing to do to make your company grow, it’s about what you’re willing to give back for the greater good. At Convene, we practice the idea of doing good and doing well at the same time.
Larry Fink, the chairman and CEO echoed this idea at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. He wrote a letter calling on CEOs to start accounting for the societal impact of their companies’ actions. He urged business leaders to consider the way they can benefit “all their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.” But there are many people at the corporate level who admit that they don’t accept their social responsibility in good heart. When social responsibility becomes an exercise only in ticking boxes or marketing, it is often counterproductive.
In a Harvard Business Review article, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer describe how social responsibility can lead some companies to think about their duty to society in generic terms, rather than in ways appropriate to their strategy. In the past, Whole Foods dismissed corporate social responsibility because of its negative meanings in favor of practicing “conscious capitalism”. When organizations identify the social consequences of their actions, they can discover ways of benefiting society and themselves by strengthening the competitive area they operate in.
A 2015 study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute in London found that organizations that had a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility outperformed those who didn’t, with an average return on assets 19 times higher. Those same companies also showed higher employee engagement and provided better customer service. Clearly, doing good and doing well don’t have to be in conflict with each other.
There’s no doubt that we’re in a period of tremendous change in the world, and the political, economic, social, and climatic challenges of our time will only be overcome with a deeper commitment from businesses and the citizens of the world. Social responsibility isn’t just about showing consumers and the media that your organization takes an interest in wider social issues that have no direct impact on profit margins. It’s about committing your business to finding ways that it can genuinely make a positive difference to those around it. It’s about improving society, and creating a better world for the communities we operate in. It’s a moral obligation.
When corporate social responsibility is done right, it benefits everyone, including your entire organization and all of your key shareholders. While all of us at Convene have given back to our communities over the years through local and national charities like Cycle for Survival, we plan to do even more as a company in 2018 – proving that we can do good and do well at the same time.