How Leading a Cultural Conversation Can Transform Your Business Into a Social Enterprise

Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Report, a survey of over 11,000 businesses with insights from top executives, demonstrates that more companies aim to transform themselves from traditional businesses into social enterprises. A social enterprise is described as “an organization whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network.”

According to the Report, these companies recognize that millennial investment in social capital, a desire for business to address challenges political institutions seem unable to contend with, and expectation-raising technological advancements have made the impact their businesses have on the world just as important as their products, services and bottom lines. Indeed, CEOs responding to the survey rated “inclusive growth” as a higher priority than “shareholder value.”

But how does your company become a social enterprise and achieve inclusive growth? Deloitte found that while traditional businesses tend to be inward looking with siloed business operations, social enterprises are more collaborative: they are more engaged with external forces in their ecosystem as well as with their more integrated internal workstreams. So, forging strong relationships with emerging voices and ideas both inside and outside of your organization and acting on that feedback to establish trust with all of your stakeholders through consistent, transparent actions are essential to creating growth and impact.

One of the best ways for brands looking to expand the scope of their engagements with not only employees, partners, customers, and consumers, but also with governments, regulators, and the world at large is to lead a cultural conversation. When companies find a cultural conversation they can credibly speak to, it enables them to connect with all stakeholders in a way that creates real, positive impact and grows their business.

For example, The North Face is leading a cultural conversation on plastic waste reduction. The company works to remove bottles from its waste stream and create products from recycled material such as tees, totes, and jackets. Since the brand is all about exploring the outdoors, The North Face has the bonafides to tackle the subject head-on. It activates employees and sourcing vendors who work on the collection, recycling and production of products, as well as with customers who may want to support the effort. Additionally, the proactive work incites other consumers, localities and vested partners to join The North Face ecosystem.

One such partner is National Geographic. The magazine recently launched a provocative cover wrapped in paper evoking the massive scope of ocean plastic pollution. In unison, The North Face launched a limited Bottle Source collection and line of recycled shirts. These collective efforts, timed during the UN’s World Environment Day 2018 theme of “Beat Plastic Pollution,” adds to the international conversation and further widens The North Face’s expansive posture as social enterprise. Combined, The North Face can achieve inclusive growth that has a lasting impact for good.

It is now more imperative than ever for companies to look past their traditional self-directed messaging toward the more holistic approach of social enterprises. Leading a cultural conversation can expand a company’s breadth by building its brand and deepening its mutually beneficial partnerships. In this way, companies everywhere can truly grow their business and scale their impact in powerful and meaningful ways..

Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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