Our communities and world face many challenges. Hunger, poverty, racism, climate change, and health are some of the social problems we face. As private citizens, we can let governments, foundations, and non-profits solve these problems. We can donate our time and money to play our role in solving some of these problems. But what if we can play a larger role through businesses we develop and grow? What if private businesses are in a unique position to counter some of the problems we face today?
In the past 4 months since April, many of our social problems have come to light. The coronavirus pandemic and the shut down of a lot of the economy have caused:
💡 12 million people to lose their jobs
💡 an unemployment rate of 11.1% as of June 2020 (compared to 3.5% in February)
💡 people feeling the need to stay home as the death toll from the virus passed 100,000 in the United States
💡 20 million renters without the income to pay rent to face eviction at the end of September
💡 a heightened awareness of systemic and institutionalized racism against African and Native Americans
What can we do?
To reduce these social problems, we can take part in food drives, donate, help out, and volunteer in our causes.
We can stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, condemn racism, and commit to change.
But businesses can do one thing that individuals can't. Businesses can improve the lives of their communities from the inside out.
By providing jobs and funding projects that benefit their communities as a whole.
Here are 3 things you will need to use your business as a force for good in your communities and in the world.
1. Your blue ocean
The blue ocean is a concept popularized by Professors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne at INSEAD. It's an uncontested market space of infinite possibilities. And it's where there is a demand for new business solutions. Creative businesses that can provide the solution will see strong profitable growth. That's when they find their blue ocean.
The blue ocean is important if you want your business to be a force for good in your community and in the world. With the blue ocean, businesses can direct their resources toward solving social problems. This is because blue ocean companies do not have to worry about their competition. Nor do they have to invest resources in differentiating themselves from the competition. They are thriving in a blue ocean. And they can then focus on helping their communities and the world.
Do not be afraid of being creative to find your blue ocean and develop strategies to get you there. Be creative about how you see your market and how you provide solutions to the problems. Empathize with your customers. Understand what they face in their day-to-day life. Then design solutions to make their everyday life easier. Also, build a brand that helps them connect with you on a deep emotional level to build brand loyalty.
Remember: businesses create blue oceans by meeting their market's deepest emotional needs.
2. Recognize that Governments and Markets Fail
Governments fail to deliver for many reasons. The institution itself is prone to bureaucracy, inefficiency, and regulatory capture. And information asymmetry is also profound in the public sector. Because of these traits, governments do not connect well with the people.
Markets fail to provide the solution to social problems too. Markets have the potential to allocate limited resources efficiently. But to do that, entrepreneurs and businesses must change their mindset. They need to stop focussing on either maximizing shareholder profits or doing charity.
Instead, the focus should be on creating social impact through business practices.
What are some ways in which your company can create social impact through your processes?
Can you hire and pay marginalized communities to work in your production process? Package and brand a community's talents to generate income for them and lift them out of poverty?
Are there causes that you can commit your company to? Causes that the government or free market cannot support or solve?
3. Business processes that can solve problems
Business processes produce services or products through linked activities in the organization. They help a company reach organizational goals such as sales. The process must involve defined inputs and a single output.
To use your business as a force for good, your business processes should be able to solve social problems. For example, can you address poverty or homelessness through your company's production processes? See Musee Bath for inspiration. Can you create a product that helps with a social or economic problem? Check out One Million Acres. Can you use your voice, business, and community to promote a cause? Patagonia does an awesome job with their work to address our climate crisis through their business.