Get Social for Good

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Never before has the case for doing business differently been more clear. If we want successful businesses we need vibrant, thriving communities and a sustainable environment. Laura Harkins-Small explores why 2021 is the year to keep doing business differently.

Scrolling through my photo memories on my phone I have been reminded that we are coming up to the anniversary of the start of our ‘year of living distantly’ – and what a year it was! While Noosa, thankfully, remained largely untouched by the Coronavirus, the economic, social, and even environmental impacts reverberated loudly and are still being played out. 

At a personal level we have all gone on our individual journeys with highs, lows and everything in between. As a community we are just starting to see how this disruptive force might shape our lives for the years to come as we stay local, embrace new ways of working and hold on tight as the new wave of people that want to call the region home breaks on the shore. 

For business the journey has been just as challenging. If nothing else we are well exercised. We pivoted, we flexed and we zoomed. Everyone’s race was different but one of the most heartening experiences to come out of last year was to discover that we were actually playing a team sport not running our own individual race. 

Words like ‘kindness’, ‘support’ and ‘giving back’ came to the forefront of our minds, words and actions. If 2020 taught us nothing else, it taught us just how connected we all are – businesses, people and the environment – and that it makes great business sense to put people and communities at the heart of what we do.

Just as we have started to see environmental sustainability become a key part of doing business, I remain hopeful that COVID might see delivering social impact through business more mainstream. 

Being a social impact business can be as simple or complex as you would like to make it. 

At its heart we are talking about treating people well – looking after employees, supporting suppliers, working in the best interests of customers; being a good neighbour and actively maintaining relationships throughout the community and positively contributing to making it a better place to live, work and play. Social impact businesses are caring, honest and have that most elusive characteristic – trustworthiness. 

As we start to see a new generation of businesspeople, this approach has been taken to the next level and we have seen the emergence of the social enterprise – a model which has delivering positive social impact embedded in its DNA. They are there to deliver a profit for a purpose and aspire to run a thriving business that will change the world along the way. 

The area is renowned for its strong connection to community and sense of place, with a passion for the natural landscapes and environment. It’s one of the reasons Noosa is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve under its global Man & the Biosphere Program. There is surely no better place that intrinsically gets the idea of doing business differently for the betterment of society and the environment, not just because it feels good, but because it also makes great business sense. 

If 2020 broke the mould, then this is the year that we can begin to reshape our businesses and region into a better form for the future. 

It is an opportunity make new behaviours a habit, continue with the kindness, compassion, and contribution we prioritised last year. 

Digital technology has enabled new ways of working and new global opportunities. The major cities are turning to our region as a place that they might be able to business – a prospect made so appealing because of our quality of life and connection to natural landscapes and the environment. 

The proof will be in the pudding whether we are able to turn this dalliance with a better way of doing business into something more lasting. 

The reward will come when we can cement our reputation as the leading region in Australia to do business sustainability. The real challenge will be to make sure that a rising tide lifts all boats and that everyone in our community can benefit from this new economy and our way of doing business in a Biosphere Reserve.

5 ways to become more socially responsible

1. Buy local, buy sustainable. 

Have a look at where you are spending your dollars and where possible buy local, buy ethical and buy for impact through a social benefit or Indigenous business.

2. Hire local, nurture your talent.

Our businesses will only be as good as our local talent. Be somebody’s big break – hire local and grow and nurture your people. 

3. Help your customers live better lives.

Step back and try and think beyond the transaction. How could you help make your customer’s lives better, happier, healthier and more connected. 

4. Connect with your community

Build new relationships with your neighbours or network. Identify a charity or community group which might need some help that you can give. This doesn’t always need to be money, it might be time, expertise or assets that you might be able to share.

5. Think about your purpose 

The purpose is your true north and the thing that gets you and your team out of bed every day – and why customers keep coming back. While increasing market share might do it for some people take a leaf out of Tesla’s book and centre your purpose around a higher social or environmental issue. Their purpose? Not to sell more cars but to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

Laura Harkins-Small is the founder and principal of Many Small Things, a social enterprise which specialises is building sustainable brands. She is also the president of The Interchange – a Sunshine Coast not-for-profit which seeks to be a local interchange for social enterprise, business, community and government to collaborate and evolve, by using enterprise to maximise social, environmental and economic benefit.

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