By: Eric Betts
One aspect that business leaders overlook is the reservoir of goodwill that emerges when they give back or invest in their surrounding areas. When business leaders disregard the value of community outreach and betterment, they are falling into a pit of missed opportunities and potential drawbacks. First and foremost, these leaders may overlook the bridges that could be built, the relationships that could be formed, and the understanding that could be gained by engaging with their communities. A lack of empathy and understanding can transpire into blind spots within the organization, hindering innovation and growth. Furthermore, their mission may seem devoid of benevolence, pushing away potential customers who value businesses that display a sense of philanthropy and responsibility. In a world where customers prioritize ethical practices, this lack of community involvement can result in a loss of customer loyalty, trust, and ultimately, business revenue. While the rewards of investing in communities may not be immediately apparent, it is essential for professionals and business leaders to understand the benefits associated with community engagement. When done correctly, these investments lead to greater mutual understanding and a stronger sense of purpose, transforming businesses into agents of positive change.
By partnering with local organizations, creating initiatives that uplift marginalized communities, or simply carving out time to give back, business leaders can use their power and privilege for the greater good. These acts of generosity not only have a positive impact on the community, but also build lasting relationships with customers and stakeholders. Ultimately, there is no better investment than investing in the betterment of your own community.
Famous CEOs have often emphasized the value of community partnerships and outreach. Just consider Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, who once stated, “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.“ This sentiment underscores the value of partnership, indicating that success lies not only in individual achievement but also in the empowerment of others. Similarly, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, emphasized the importance of corporate responsibility, stating, “The primary reason we are successful is that we have stayed true to our values.” By this, she underscored the importance of benevolence and empathy in driving a company’s success.
Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, takes this further by integrating philanthropy into the company’s business model through the 1-1-1 model, whereby the company contributes 1% of product, 1% of equity, and 1% of employee hours back to the communities it serves. Speaking on this, he said, “The business of business is improving the state of the world.“ By highlighting the significance of community involvement, these industry leaders illustrate the benefits of businesses becoming more empathetic, understanding, and committed to building bridges with their communities.
Of course, while there are numerous benefits to be gained from community engagement, it is also important to recognize the potential pitfalls that come with it. Blind spots and biases can easily lead a company astray. Therefore, it’s important for business leaders to make sure they have done their due diligence and taken measures to ensure that they do not become part of the problem. By taking a holistic approach and actively engaging with their local communities, business leaders can foster meaningful relationships that will benefit both sides in the long run.
At its core, corporate responsibility is about more than just giving back—it’s about creating a more vibrant and equitable world. As business leaders continue to invest in the community, they create a ripple effect that can have far-reaching impacts. By building bridges between businesses and their local communities, these leaders are creating a more equitable future for everyone, and that’s something we should all strive for. The key is to make sure that corporate responsibility involves both understanding the mission of the company as well as recognizing the impact it has on its surroundings.
In various instances, professionals and business owners have made commendable strides toward improving their communities. A prime example is Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, who invested $350 million in the Downtown Project aimed at revitalizing the blighted parts of Las Vegas. Another example is the philanthropic efforts of Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. Schultz launched the “Create Jobs for USA” initiative, aimed at stimulating job growth in the United States, in addition to Starbucks’ commitment to hiring 10,000 refugees globally.
Similarly, Chobani’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, has made it his mission to assist refugees. He has not only offered jobs to refugees at his factories but also pledged the majority of his wealth to helping refugees through his personal foundation, demonstrating a profound level of benevolence and empathy. These examples underscore the significant, lasting impact that professionals and business owners can have when they choose to invest in their surrounding communities, embodying the core values of understanding, responsibility, and bridge-building.
As the renowned African American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., once powerfully articulated, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” This call to action serves as an enduring reminder for professionals and business leaders of their responsibilities beyond their corporate boundaries and the indispensable role they play in uplifting their local communities.
By: Eric Betts
Udemy Instructor in Religion, Leadership and Ethics