By Emily Kauffman

As the future unfolds and the younger generations start to come of age and shape the world around them, it’s becoming clear that the old ways of doing business are not sustainable anymore. Or more precisely: They never were sustainable.

Business driven only by profit, short-term goals and thinking, and exploitation has contributed to the destruction of our planet, been detrimental to individual and community health, and slowly siphoned wealth and resources from the majority to a minority of individuals. This way of running a business is inherently self-destructive and people are realizing that things need to change. The future lies in socially responsible business practices.

Socially responsible businesses adopt policies and practices that promote a more sustainable and just business economy. Instead of their only priority being maximizing profits, businesses need to start taking responsibility for how they impact the communities that support them. Adopting socially responsible business practices doesn’t have to affect a company’s bottom line either; it makes good business sense to become a socially responsible business.

Companies that practice social responsibility can attract and maintain investors as well as reduce operating costs. Investors want to work with companies that can show they have good reputations, good business practices, that they are sustainable and are having positive impacts on the surrounding communities. In addition, businesses that practice sustainability are able to cut operational costs by reducing energy usage and streamlining processes to reduce waste.

Being a socially responsible business requires creativity and engagement with employees as well as with the larger community. Each community is different; they have unique problems, strengths, and resources. This means that companies need to be creative and tailor their policies and solutions to the communities they are a part of. When companies encourage creativity and customer engagement, they produce innovation. Innovative technologies that solve problems in unique ways have the potential for a business to stand out, disrupt industries, and continually improve on products and brand recognition.

Socially responsible businesses know that their employees are their most important asset and they work to improve the lives of their workers. This means good benefits packages, flexible work hours, good family policies, living wages, and healthy work environments. In return, businesses get loyal and hardworking employees, as well as a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting top talent.  Happy and appreciative employees stay longer and work harder and more efficiently. If they do leave, they are likely to exit on good terms instead of leaving coworkers or the company in the lurch.

There is a growing demand not only for sustainable products but also for businesses to be socially aware and socially responsible. Companies that can embrace the narrative of social responsibility and show their customers that they care about communities, workers, and the environment cultivate a positive reputation that produces loyal customers. Being responsive to this demand for sustainability and business practices that are driven by more than just the bottom line engages your customer base. This can create deeper, mutually beneficial relationships between companies and the communities they serve.

Large businesses coming or going in a community inevitably have an impact on the economic and social health of the community. Businesses that exploit workers, the natural environment, or the communities that support them can literally make people less healthy. Whether it is from poor working conditions, pollution, or tax breaks for corporations, business practices that don’t consider the human and social elements end up having some sort of negative impact on the surrounding community. This, in turn, can contribute to economic and social decline.

When businesses practice social responsibility, they can work to minimize negative impacts and maximize positive outcomes for all parties involved. Companies that follow regulations and properly deal with their waste may end up spending more in the short term but can avoid accidents or improper management that could result in costly cleanups or poor reputations.

Companies that invest in their workers by providing living wages and benefits cultivate stable and safe work environments which are great for business. Companies that invest in their communities can cultivate good reputations, brand recognition, and brand loyalty in addition to having a positive impact. Socially responsible companies need to be a part of a sustainable future for everyone’s sake.