Purpose At Work: How Airbnb Supports Australia’s Fire Victims

In today’s world, companies must distinguish themselves by offering more than quality products. Consumers are looking to support businesses that share their beliefs and take on causes they care about. Brands that do so cultivate community and consumer goodwill and also rightly drive earned media. Most importantly they demonstrate the authenticity of their brand purpose.

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Airbnb is setting an excellent example of how to use business for good. The Australia fires have forced local residents to evacuate from their homes. In response, Airbnb is encouraging hosts to offer free accommodations to fire victims. The brand is making a valuable contribution to communities and the country at large at a time when its help is needed most. It is also activating its purpose in a meaningful way by ensuring everyone can belong even in the most dire circumstances.

This is not the first time Airbnb has helped people in need of short term housing. The Airbnb Open Homes program connects disaster victims with generous hosts willing to help out their community in times of need. Open Homes facilitates temporary housing for people seeking medical relief. The program also supports refugees relocating to a new destination.

Over 30,000 people have received accommodation through the Open Homes program. The program relies on hosts opening their hearts and their doors to people who need a place to stay. Airbnb supports hosts by providing them with damage protection up to 1 million dollars. They also screen guests and work with nonprofit partners to ensure trouble free stays.

Airbnb is using its global platform to position the brand as a leader in social movements addressing today’s most pressing issues. This action expands the company’s stakeholder community and differentiates the brand from competitors. Airbnb also generates powerful word of mouth support and goodwill from hosts and guests, all of which shores up the brand’s business growth and social impact. Airbnb’s purposeful actions offer powerful insights for business leaders looking to build the reputation and positive impact.

Key takeaways from Airbnb on how to leverage your business for good:

Join cultural conversations:

Humanity is facing compounding social crises such as climate change, poverty and public health challenges. Conscious consumers want to feel like they’re making purchases that help build a better world. Brands that connect stakeholders with issues they care about form emotional ties with consumers. By dedicating your business to causes bigger than your brand or industry, you make yourself relevant to a wider network of people. In turn, you will scale impact and drive bottom line growth.

Airbnb is joining conversations about resilience, immigration and healthcare. Rather than simply discussing the issues, Airbnb is using its resources and network to take meaningful and measurable action. The hospitality company validates its “social license to operate and to comment on these issues by making a contribution through its social good programs”.

The lesson here is that you must identify issues that resonate with your brand and stakeholder community. Then join the conversation by taking concerted actions that move the impact needle.

Build an infrastructure for impact:

Successful social good initiatives require planning and infrastructure. You must articulate your value chain for delivering impact, just as you would for a product. In other words, establish relationships. Leverage technology. Allocate resources for your purposeful contribution to make a real difference.

Airbnb has established partnerships with nonprofits such as Team Rubicon, Make a Wish Foundation and HIAS. This allows them to better connect hosts and guests in situations affected by the issues Airbnb supports. Airbnb also offers 24/7 support, technology and insurance solutions for hosts. Without this infrastructure its purpose-driven work would not be possible or effective.

The lesson here is that you must ensure you can deliver what you promise by dedicating resources to create an infrastructure for impact.

Invite your community to take part:

To scale impact you must involve people, resources and organizations beyond your own business. Identify the people working on solutions to the problems you are addressing. Invite your stakeholder community to get involved. Build a network around shared values and a common mission.

Airbnb is connecting with nonprofits, hosts and people in need. The hospitality giant is inviting others to join its purposeful mission. By collaborating with stakeholders Airbnb is able to scale its brand reach, resonance and impact.

The learning here is that the scale of your purpose-driven initiatives is a function of your community engagement. It’s essential to invite others to join you. By working with partners you can advance your cause.

The key takeaway here is that there are many ways to act on purpose. Airbnb utilizes its core business capabilities to offer displaced Australians a much needed place to stay. Build on their example, challenge your own brand by asking ‘how can you use your business as a force for good?’.

Written by

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

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