Socially-Responsible Business – Impact More Than Just the Bottom Line

By Wanda Tisby-Cousar, EMBA, DTR
CTU Adjunct Professor of Professional Communication

Businesses in the 21st century need to be forward-thinking and innovative to retain current customers, attract new ones, and draw in new employees. Increasingly, adopting a mission focused on sustainability is a favored path for accomplishing these objectives.

Business sustainability, according to the Financial Times Lexicon, involves managing the “triple bottom line,” or financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. The three impacts are sometimes referred to as profits, people and planet.

Blake MycoskieSustainable practices revolve around conserving resources and regulating pollution-causing activities. It takes form with initiatives geared toward recycling and conservation, all in support of an ecosystem that ensures an adequate and wholesome food supply, clean air, and an environment free of radicals. Sustainability also has social aspects that many businesses embrace, like fast food restaurants adopting healthier fare to combat the obesity epidemic.

The scope of corporate responsibility can be vast, from TOMS’ One to One™ social movement to the fair trade and sustainable food sourcing efforts of Whole Foods Market. Two others, Chick-fil-A and Starbucks, have implemented innovative practices that have a direct impact on the communities in which they operate:

Chick-fil-A has been focusing on environmental stewardship, a fairly new emphasis that encompasses cup recycling, sustainable new restaurant development, energy and water efficiency in existing restaurants, and a sustainable supply chain. Among its achievements is the Fort Worth Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 2011. Considered the company’s “living laboratory,” it was the first restaurant in the city to earn LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The facility has “revealed a number of energy conservation measures that can and will be applied to many of our existing Restaurants over the course of 2012,” the restaurant chain said. “These seemingly small changes, including more efficient lighting, water aerators and HVAC controls, will make a large impact.”

Starbucks has taken note of unemployment in communities where it operates, particularly among Hispanics, where it hovers at 11%, and African-Americans, where it has been in the 14% range. To that end, Starbucks has committed to its partnership with Opportunity Finance Networks (OFN)  to create and sustain jobs. The Create U.S.A. jobs program will provide capital grants to select Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).  These institutions will provide financing to underserved community businesses through loans, community center and housing finance, as well as microfinancing. The company also has plans to add 2,000 full and part-time jobs across the country through its partnerships and add 200 new stores across the country.

The idea of doing well by doing good is one that businesses are increasingly embracing. A focus on sustainability benefits the broader community and distinguishes organizations in ways that attract like-minded patrons and eco-conscious employees.

CTU Faculty - Wanda Tisby-CousarWanda Tisby-Cousar, EMBA, DTR, is an Adjunct Professor of Professional Communication and CTU student pursuing her Doctor of Management in Business Environmental and Social Sustainability. As an author of several published journal articles, she was recognized with the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2010 from the CTU College of Business and Management. Connect with Wanda on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Image credit: TOMS/Will Hinton