As an entrepreneur, you provide products and services to your respective market. You don’t exist in isolation. Your entire business ecosystem includes your customers, partners, suppliers, vendors and external stakeholders – which is your community. Your long-term success as a business concern is highly dependent on the trust and loyalty of your community.

With that comes a clear responsibility regardless the size of your business. Social responsibility as defined in the Cambridge dictionary is “the practice of producing goods and services in a way that is not harmful to society and the environment”.  However, just producing the ‘right’ goods and services is not enough. You need to be immersed in specific causes that are important to your community. Such involvement conveys the message that their transactions or purchases with your company are put to a good cause that they care about. That will enhance their loyalty to your brand.

Many researches have shown that customers and stakeholders are aware of the ethics of the companies they patronize. What you give back to the community matters to them.  Indeed, it is worth your while in the long term to strategically plan on your purpose as a business while serving the interest of your community.

Arguably, big organizations such as the CIMB, Maybank or Petronas can easily fork out huge money for such social responsibility initiatives. How about us, entrepreneurs and the small start-ups?

Well. You can too.

Here are the 5 easy steps for you to determine the right social responsibility initiative for your community:

Clear about your business goals

Firstly, you must be clear about your business goals. What exactly do you want to accomplish? What type of products or services will you provide? What type of market will you cover? What kind of image and reputation are you planning to build?

Gain a good understanding of your community

How well do you know your community? What’s important to them? What are the demographics of your community? What do they do? Where do they live? There are many areas that you can potentially get involved in such as children, person with disabilities, breast cancer, HIV, women empowerment, green environment and many others. You need to select the right fit, the one that is most aligned to your business goal.

Gather feedback from your team members and employees

At the same time, equally important is to gather feedback from your team members and employees. You need their support and contribution in executing your social responsibility initiative. Hence, let’s hear their voices – what do they care about? What do they think your community needs? Where is the best alignment between your business goals and their interests as well? After a fair deliberation, you can then decide on a mutual social responsibility initiative.

Define a clear social responsibility goal and practical ways to measure it

Based on all the previous activities, you are now in the position to establish a clear social responsibility goal. Key consideration will include how much budget you would want to allocate. In addition, do you see the need to partner with an NGO, for instance? Once, you have established the social responsibility goal, it is easy for you to meet any potential NGOs or other partners to share the benefits of the initiative and why they should be a party to it. Do not forget to define success. What would success look like? How would you measure it? The more practical your measurement, the better it is. What gets measured gets done.

Practice transparency

It is imperative to give periodic updates on the progress of your initiatives to all stakeholders involved. That’s one of the best ways to keep the momentum going. When they know that their sweat and effort do produce the expected outcome, they will be motivated to do more. Even if the progress happens to fall behind plan, it is still a good indicator for them to know on what needs to be done to put the initiative back on track.

The above steps will help you determine the right social responsibility initiative for your community. It doesn’t need to be huge. Do what’s fit with your budget and in alignment with your business goals and community needs. Treat it like a reiterative process – you will keep on improving on it over time based on lessons learned during the process.

Have you implemented any social responsibility initiative to date? What are the three key lessons learnt so far?