Sarah Ford | September 23, 2014

Why Prioritizing Social Responsibility Will Strengthen Your Startup

By Bradley Heinz

At first glance, “doing good” might seem impossible for today’s tech startup. When you’re staying up into the wee hours of the morning to ship features and investors are your main source of revenue, thinking about your social impact strategy might seem impractical.

But visionary founders know that doing good is the right thing to do. The business of it makes sense: we know talented people want to work and stay at companies that include some way to make a difference.* And customers care too. 50 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more to socially responsible companies.** But what’s the time and cash-crunched startup to do?

Don a company shirt to pick up garbage in a nearby park and then pose for pictures that went up on a website? I’ve done something like that. It felt contrived.

Today’s standard approaches to making a difference as employees, typically called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) models, have been criticized for being self-serving, with a focus on team building and positive press rather than on delivering lasting value to any causes. How uninspiring!

Moving away from garbage pick-up

Thankfully, we’re seeing more and more companies ditch the t-shirt clad garbage picking in favor of experimental, integrated approaches to social impact. Instead of saving do-good projects for the future when they “hit 50 employees” “get that Series B”, [fill in the blank with company milestone], more and more organizations are building it into the DNA of their business early on. In other words, making a difference in the world and creating an organization where people want to work is no longer something to aspire to, but something to build from.

You might be two people, or you might be two thousand, but regardless, getting started developing your social impact strategy is easier than you think. In starting our own social impact projects and paying attention to many others out there, I can point to four guidelines startups can follow to set a social impact strategy and maximize success from the earliest stages of its inception.

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