Who said business has to be simply transactional?

Sometimes, it amazes me how we, as individuals and a society, can accept concepts without question. When a belief becomes so integrated into the fabric of society, we often just float along with it relatively complacent. As a strategic social impact advisor, I’ve been drawn to the world of supporting businesses to identify, streamline, integrate and execute the social impact  they know is possible while improving their bottom line.  Bringing social impact to you..and, more accurately bringing you to your social impact potential. The majority of this is focused on streamlining the philanthropic efforts that are a type of ‘stand-alone’ outside of the business process itself – for example, we ‘donate’ $50,000 to this charity, or we offer our services yearly to this group discounted and so forth. However, I have to admit, it was only more recently as I transitioned from the nonprofit and governmental arena after 15 years to a business owner, that I begged a question – Who said business is simply transactional? Who says that social impact can’t be integrated throughout your business model? To be fair in disclosure, I’m operating from the belief that every entity has the opportunity to be transformational, that every business owner has a choice.

No surprise then that I was delighted to come across a great article by  Deborah Mills-Scofield in the Harvard Business Review blog, titled ‘Every Business Is (Or Should Be) a Social Business‘that speaks to this idea and provides some wonderful examples of businesses that refuse to accept the excuse of simple transactional model… they challenge the status quo and, in doing so, have created some extremely successful business models. Some of the questions that flow then, include:

  • Do we choose to accept the status quo that somehow business success is at odds with creating positive outcomes for those around us? We often focus on job creation as a key positive outcome but by doing so we limit our scope of awareness and impact.
  • What if we were driven by, and integrating, an awareness for the social and environmental implications from the beginning of research and development through our business process?
  • And, what if successful business models were actually enhanced by this social impact orientation and integration? What if we recognized that business + social impact = ‘win-win’?

I’ve asked myself what it is that allows us to be complacent about our businesses being transactional? As a unique combination of a strategic consultant and a yoga teacher, I sense this stems from the disconnection many of us feel from our true drivers and, as a result, follow the encouragement to focus solely on transaction and profit. Through a range of mediums, including yoga or simple stillness, we can start to ask the question of why do we do what we do every day? What is it that drives me to provide this product or service? What is it that speaks to my core as an injustice when I hear it on the news? When we can create the space to ask these questions, reflect on what we stand for, what we want to see improve in the world, and combine it with what resources we have available (i.e. talent, time, treasure)…. I believe we can start the process of moving our own lives and our businesses from transactional driven entities to those that recognize and embrace the challenge and responsibility of transformational businesses. The key is to meet every business where they are on the social impact spectrum and, for those that seek to fully integrate the social impact model, assuring them it not only is possible, it is rewarding on many levels.

Do you think business +social impact = ‘win-win’? Have you done this? Are you interested in trying? What are your experiences?


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