In Fall 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap for governments and businesses to move towards a better future.
The SDGs are becoming more and more important, especially considering that new corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices are an increasingly hot topic for large organizations and small businesses alike. In addition to this, the number of social enterprises are growing. These businesses usually have a non-profit form, but social for-profit enterprises are quickly expanding in numbers too.
Regardless of what type of socially responsible business you have, whether it’s a business with “classic” CSR practices, a non-profit or for-profit social enterprise, striving to achieve SDGs can have a big effect on your competitive advantage.
And while it can be challenging to balance between the best interests of your business, which usually means maximizing profits, and a social mission, the extra steps you take can make an incredible difference on society, the environment and your community.
Luckily, the 2030 Agenda outlines 17 sustainable development goals that can help any small business owner start or improve their CSR practices. The first goal, to help end poverty, is a great place since over 836 million people on the planet live on less than $1.25 per day.
The Sustainable Development Goals addresses this by working towards ensuring that “all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance” by 2030.
As a social entrepreneur and an international human rights lawyer specializing in business and SDGs, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to CSR and profitability. In fact, I’m working on the same issue with the social enterprise, ENculture Hub. It tackles a few SDGs simultaneously by providing quality education, which helps reduce inequality in business, promotes sustainable economic growth and creates jobs.
Use the first Sustainable Development Goal focused on ending poverty to guide you through a few small changes in your business practices. These two CSR practices can easily be applied that can help your small business grow while having a positive impact on the world around you.
1. Invest Your Profits
It’s great to give some of your profit to charity. But putting a percentage of your profits towards investing in a particular program or business may spread that positive impact even further.
For example, you could invest into a young, smart and underfunded entrepreneur with a brilliant idea. This young person may be able to make a change that can address even more SDGs through his business than a single charitable mission.
Once the business is profitable, the entrepreneur can invest into another underfunded entrepreneur. Eventually, this “social investment virus” could spread, helping to reduce poverty much faster.
2. Give Your Employees Part Ownership
Splitting equity in startups between co-founders and employees has become a common practice. However, if you already have a profitable business, it may be possible to share some of the profits with your employees via non-voting common shares.
Voting common shares for employees help better the finances of your best workers and your reputation. Needless to say that this practice would increase your employees’ productivity, motivation and loyalty.
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