I've been writing about companies who are committed to making a difference. I think the issue boils down to a very simple question: "Who else can win?" The primary focus has always been on how companies make money... ie. how the company wins. But precious few companies contemplate how their business model can help others win too. I'm calling this "mindful business"... stopping auto-pilot for a moment to really think about the ecosystem in which you operate, and what you can do to improve it.
Brands win when they help others win.
A few examples:
- Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty addresses self-esteem and our society's distortion of beauty. It's a great example of a mindful marketing program that benefits everyone.
- Starbucks' concept of social responsibility is embedded deep into its brand, including conservation, community volunteerism, commitment to coffee producers, the Starbucks Foundation (youth literacy), Ethos water, socially responsible investing, and more.
- Squidoo enables lensmasters to send their revenues directly to a charity of their choice (Squidoo will add your favorite charity if it's not currently in their system.) Over half of Squidoo's lensmasters participate in this program, and Squidoo itself donates 5% of net revenue to the charity pool.
- Intel's World Ahead program is committing a $1 billion investment to extend broadband PC access to the world’s next billion users while training 10 million more teachers on the use of technology in education.
- Whole Foods helped establish national organic standards, supports the Marine Stewardship Council to ensure sustainable seafood, established the Animal Compassion Foundation, and helped organic farms in North America grow.
- From its earliest days, Patagonia has been committed to environmental activism. Their mission statement is to build the best product, do no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. They have an impressive list of actions that their mission has inspired.
Many companies wanting to fill in the "social responsibility" checkbox will adopt a non-profit or encourage employees to volunteer. Not bad, but this type of add-on activity won't gain traction. Mindful businesses tightly integrate a social perspective into their current business models. This is about being, not just doing. In the examples above, each company is mindful of their role within a larger ecosystem and seeks ways to leverage their role to strengthen the entire ecosystem. Their beliefs and actions attract like-minded, passionate customers and employees. Everybody wins.