Socially Responsible Companies

What happened to our society that we pay more to companies for “social responsibility”, for doing the right thing? I am fully supportive of those companies who truly have a social consciousness and fair trade in their fiber. Those companies who were “socially conscious” way before it became fashionable. Foundations, such as, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who believe all lives have equal value and who are impatient optimists desiring to be a force for change in the world. Southwest Airlines was (and is) a disruptor putting employees first, believing that taking care of the people who are taking care of your customers is the right thing to do and is good for business. Southwest Airlines “Southwest Citizenship” programs have been operating long before these were in vogue. In their hiring process, Southwest looks for employees who not only have the expertise and experience needed for the position but who fit in with the corporate culture of teamwork and community consciousness.

Unfortunately, today social responsibility, social consciousness, and fair trade have become media buzzwords, a sales manipulator to motivate us to buy products and services to assuage our conscience for not giving back ourselves. To compete in business today it is no longer an option for businesses, it has become a necessary competitive requirement to claim some sort of social responsibility.

We are willing to pay extra for goods and services for companies and businesses who claim social responsibility without ever vetting what this really means for the company. Does it mean one event or donation in the year by the company and then they go back to business, as usual, the other 364 days of the year? Do these companies treat their employees well all year long? Do they offer employee profit sharing, or some other benefits before supporting causes in distant countries? Are these companies doing what we are guilty of – “sourcing out” true social responsibility.

Owning Our Responsibility

We are putting the burden on someone else to feed the poor, care for the homeless, and solve a myriad of social ills. Like many other things in our lives we are so overloaded with work and busyness that we “source out” our social responsibility. Is it any wonder that businesses and corporations, fueled by the media hype, jump on our guilt for not taking the time ourselves to step up and play our part?

Many of us are willing to put in a few hours once a year, or part with some dollars for a worthy cause, but we don’t know our neighbor next door or across the street. As cities get bigger and our lives get busier we have lost that sense of community and community responsibility. Amish and Mennonite communities still cherish the tradition of “barn building”, a coming together of the community to build or rebuild a barn, but sadly for the rest of us we live insular lives without knowing the needs of those around us, and without them knowing our needs.

There are many businesses and individuals who consistently give from their heart, do the right thing day in and day out, yet don’t need to broadcast it. We need to give credit to and support truly socially conscious businesses and individuals, but we devalue their efforts by buying into every business that claims they are a socially responsible business or their products are responsibly sourced.

Let’s stop “sourcing out” our own social responsibility. Continue to support businesses who consistently demonstrate social responsibility, but take some of this responsibility on yourself. Seek to create a local caring community as much as possible in your own sphere of influence.

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