Becoming a responsible business

31 March 2014

This week we’re celebrating Responsible Business Week, so we’ve put together five tips to help you understand how your business can become more responsible.

All businesses have an impact on their communities, and all businesses need communities to function.  Being a responsible business is about ensuring that you actively minimise the negative impacts and maximise the positive impacts in the community where your business is located. Becoming a responsible business also offers huge opportunities in terms of increased employee engagement and loyalty, enhanced brand recognition and the ability to meet changing customer demands.

Responsible businesses are those that achieve commercial success through positively impacting people and the planet, an aim that we believe is very worthy.  However, it can take some time to truly understand how your business can adapt to have a more positive role in society.   

What can your business do to understand how it can be more responsible? 

    1. Understanding what your responsibility is as a business is different for every company, but first you need think about what is at the core of your business, your products and services.   How do these contribute to a better society?  This is the ‘why’ of what you do.  Simon Sinek has a great way of getting businesses to understand this in this talk.
    2. Once you can articulate this, it’s time to start on some effective stakeholder engagement, to see if your values are coming through in actions. 
    3. Look at all elements of your business. Some things you might want to consider include: how and where operations are managed, who you hire as staff, how you impact the community through supply chain and procurement, how and what is produced and sold, what are your existing community investment programmes and how does this relate to the why of your business.  
    4. Then based on this feedback, put together programmes to address the issues and start recording the impact that this is having.
    5. When you’re at a stage where you’re happy with the progress you’ve made, talk to people about it.


A useful tool to help you understand how your business can become more responsible is the Community Footprint tool – the brainchild of UK-based Business in the Community, which also started Responsible Business Week. It helps companies understand the social impact that they’re having and how this relates to the actual issues their community is facing.  By using this approach in a community investment plan, businesses are able to form better partnerships, engage stakeholders and ensure that their community development programmes are embedded in the business operations. 

Some New Zealand companies have already used the Community Footprint tool, and in some cases it has highlighted areas for development, particularly around meaningful and impartial stakeholder feedback on how the business is perceived.  The tool forms part of a three month Community Footprint Programme which is run by SBN with interested businesses.

“A big challenge for many businesses is trying to fit what community needs with what they as a business can do to make a difference,” says Julia Jackson, SBN’s Community Footprint Programme manager. “However, businesses that have already been through the Community Footprint programme are starting to see the opportunities and tailoring their business offerings to suit the community expectations.” 

The Community Footprint Programme provides a framework for businesses that want to understand where the opportunities exist for them to become more responsible. 

So make the most of Responsible Business Week and start thinking about why you’re in business today.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can run your business more responsibly get in touch.