How small business owners can change the world
by Catherine Hernandez-Blades,Ms. Hernandez-Blades is senior vice president, chief environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and communications officer at Aflac. She is responsible for corporate affairs activities for the company, including the Aflac’s Global SABRE award-winning corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Visit aflac.com
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” As integral stewards of their communities, small-business owners, including many brokers and agents, know and understand their communities’ needs better than most. These local business leaders are well-equipped to jump-start service programs that are rooted in social responsibility.
Companies around the world of all sizes are implementing initiatives to tackle issues like sustainability, diversity, equality and inclusion, education and economic empowerment. While global Fortune 500 companies often receive attention for their corporate social responsibility efforts, smaller businesses are uniquely positioned to make a significant impact in their communities, despite having fewer resources and up-front capital than bigger corporations.
With April marking Community Service Month, now is the perfect time for brokers and agents to see how they can leverage their own resources and skills to help serve the needs of their community.
The numbers speak for themselves
Increasingly, customers are looking at the bigger picture. Consumers’ purchasing power is being determined more and more by what a company stands for and how it engages and betters its community. Data backs up these statements and clearly shows social responsibility is a game-changer:
- 92 percent of consumers have more positive images of companies that support social or environmental issues.1
- Nearly 52 percent of a business’ reputation is based on its perception as fair, ethical, having a positive influence on society, and the importance of its products and services.2
- 69 percent of U.S. employees and 80 percent of human resources managers believe it is extremely or very important for companies to act socially responsible, according to an Aflac survey.3
Every good salesperson understands the value of meeting customers’ needs, and the numbers show that consumers want to support businesses that are doing good. Therefore, brokers and agents can look to doing good to not only make a positive impact where they are located, but to help build lasting relationships with customers—and help improve their bottom line, too.
Authenticity or bust
Thankfully, giving back does not have to be overly complicated. Start by finding a cause that aligns with your business and interests as well as your community’s needs. For example, if living a greener life is important to you, set up a recycling program in your office and try to go paperless as much as possible. You can also celebrate Earth Day with a “green” initiative, like an outing to clean up your city and local parks or organizing an event at a recycling center.
If you are passionate about helping children live healthier lives, consider hosting a Day of Play with the help of a local doctor or coach as a way to educate parents and children on healthy eating and adequate exercise. Alternatively, if food waste or food security is an issue that affects your community, set up a food drive or organize a volunteer event at the local food pantry.
Take Aflac, for example – a pioneer in cancer insurance and a corporate ally for the childhood cancer community since 1995. Aflac’s culture of doing good permeates to independent sales agents licensed to sell Aflac products, 17,000 of whom voluntarily give a combined $500,000 each month from their commission checks to the cause. As a result of this and other efforts, Aflac has given more than $131 million toward the research and treatment of childhood cancer.
I cannot emphasize this point enough: Communicate what you are doing to all of your stakeholders, including current and potential customers. Post a photo on social media from an event you sponsored, distribute a press release to the city newspaper or author an article in a local magazine. Not a communications guru? Some insurers, like Aflac, provide a toolkit to help agents and brokers easily share about their efforts to do good.
Bet your bottom line
Investing in social responsibility can positively affect your bottom line. The top companies in the world have social responsibility programs connecting back to their core values – and consumers are rewarding them for it. According to Cone Communications, 87 percent of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about.1 It is no different for brokers and agents, with people wanting to put their money where their heart is and support socially responsible companies.
Celebrate Community Service Month by finding a sustainable cause and sticking to it. In return, you can help make a significant impact and establish your brand over time. With an approach grounded in social responsibility, brokers and agents can further establish themselves as local leaders in doing good.
1 Cone Communications. “2017 Cone Communications CSR Study.” Accessed March 6, 2019. http://www.conecomm.com/research-blog/2017-csr-study#download-the-research.
2 Reputation Institute. “Most Reputable Companies in the United States in 2018.” Accessed March 6, 2019. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2963875/_PDF/PressReleases/2018-US-RepTrak-PressRelease-updated.pdf?t=1524497004680.
3 Aflac 2018 CSR Survey. Page 12. Accessed March 14, 2019. http://www.aflac.com/ACSR.
Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York. WWHQ | 1932 Wynnton Road | Columbus, GA 31999.