5 Reasons Why Social Responsibility Matters

The modus operandi for any big business is profit at the cost of the producers, with the shareholders at the very top of the corporation’s list of priorities, the consumers somewhere in the middle, and the workers who produce their products dead last. This has been the norm for decades, but with the environment now trashed and a growing awareness of the kind of careless exploitation that left 1,100 dead in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, it is becoming harder for big businesses to convince consumers that the ends justify the means. An environmentally and socially sustainable business model is being embraced by companies who recognize the growing demand for ethical products, according to Paul Rice in a recent article from Fast Company’s CoExist blog. Here are the top 5 reasons why every business should make social sustainability their new MO.

Consumers Want Ethical Products

The whole point of running a business is to sell more stuff, which means it is in the company’s best interest to give people what they want. Consumers like to feel good about what they buy, so why not give the people more ethical choices? Walk through almost any store today and you will find fair trade coffee, “green” cleaning supplies, and cage-free eggs, because there is a demand for those kinds of products among a growing culture of conscientious consumers. People will pay a little bit more if it means making the right choice.

Better Working Conditions Means Higher Quality Goods

People are getting tired of the whole planned obsolescence thing, and young consumers are starting to take a hint from their grandparents, and are looking for higher quality products which may cost a bit more up front but will last longer and be a better value in the end. Honestly, who can afford to buy a new pair of cheap sweatshop made tennis shoes every month? Consumers want environmentally and socially sustainable products, carefully crafted quality goods that are a worthwhile investment, rather than the usual slap-shod sweatshop-made garments hastily thrown together in a white head that will just end up in the landfill in a matter of months. Businesses throw millions of dollars away when they do not invest in their workers. The FDA is constantly recalling contaminated food, a waste that could be prevented if farm workers were trained, treated fairly, and given the time and incentive to be more vigilant. Paul Rice puts it this way, “when you provide safer working conditions, living wages, and job security, you create a more secure supply chain.”

Fewer Apologies

The recent Rana Plaza factory collapse sent global corporations in a frenzy to patch up their damaged reputations with expensive PR, and it certainly wasn’t the first time they have had to apologize for their careless treatment of the workers who supply their products. For decades global corporations have had to answer for numerous scandals, from sweatshops to child labor. If the wealthiest corporations in the world started paying their factory workers living wages and providing safe working conditions, they would have fewer headaches. “Investing in social sustainability allows companies to flip these types of liabilities into assets,” said Rice.

Social Sustainability Could Become Business as Usual

Going green has already started to catch-on with mega corporations, who have the power to make large scale changes, and now social sustainability is following that trend. A recent study by CSRHub, a group that offers free social responsibility ratings to the worlds biggest companies, concluded that “brand managers may expect to see broad benefits on their brand strength from promoting and leveraging their company’s good social responsibility performance,” said CEO of CSRHub, Bahar Gidwani. Big names like Apple have announced that they will abide by The Fair Labor Association’s guidelines to improve working conditions and give the overworked some time off. Costco has teamed-up with Oxfam America and United Farm Workers to support the Equitable Food Initiative, whose projects include training produce growers in food safety practices and raising wages. For big businesses, hanging on to the old poor standards of exploitation for low prices could cost them, as a rapidly growing culture of conscious consumers opt to support socially sustainable companies. “We’re choosing a world where farmers and workers are able to fight poverty through better trading practices, work in safe conditions, and have access to adequate schooling, health care, and housing,” said Rice.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: FastCoExist, Triple Pundit
Photo: Rishi Tea