Good business practice is predicated on doing what is right for shareholders, employees, customers, and communities while fully engaging with the business’s vision and mission. While still creating value, businesses today must also be focused on the greater impact their decisions will have on society and future generations.
A societal understanding of the purpose of business recognizes that individual and organizational actions take place within a larger set of social, cultural, political, and economic contexts. Socially conscious business leaders strive to understand and anticipate the broader impacts of actions and practices and recognize the diversity of their organizations and the people who work within them. By doing so, they can effectively improve a company’s operational effectiveness, transform a business model to address social or environmental issues, and attract and retain more customers and employees.
Good examples of corporate social responsibility abound. The Patagonia brand stands out in successfully balancing profit and purpose. It encourages employees to take up to two months off with full pay and benefits to volunteer with an environmental nonprofit of their choice. The company also encourages consumers to buy only what they need, repair clothes when damaged, and pass along Patagonia products when they are no longer needed.
Another example is JP Morgan Chase, which developed a long-term program to help small businesses thrive in the city of Detroit, Michigan where small businesses have been in decline for decades and where business bankruptcies proliferate. The JPMorgan Chase Invested in Detroit campaign was designed to rebuild downturned neighborhoods and the city’s economy. The bank discovered it could help these businesses most effectively by using loans that are keyed to low-income areas to help disadvantaged small enterprises and nonprofits.
Learn more about the Redlands School of Business & Society and how we develop socially responsible analysts and leaders who make a positive, real-world impact on business and society
Our Socially Responsible Practices Pillar
“If you take society out of the equation, then you're really working in a bubble,” says Stephen Bishop, ’19 (Master of Science in Organizational Leadership [MSOL]), a healthcare consultant with ACCUMEN Inc. “Every decision we make in business has some sort of ramification, and that ramification plays out and manifests somehow in society. We must take a holistic approach to business—not just address bottom lines and accounting.”
At the University of Redlands School of Business & Society, we help our students take a fresh view of their organizations’ purposes and understand how decision-making affects not only the enterprise but the wider world. We do this through an integrated curriculum that leverages their desires to impact the world with training in how to identify and strategically incorporate socially responsible business practices. For example, a recent MBA strategy capstone examined the Cali-Baja region’s industry, economic, and social development, in collaboration with Mexico’s CETYS University. From an analytical perspective, the school has a unique Spatial Business partnership with Esri, the world’s leader in GIS software. A key feature of this initiative is providing opportunities for students to use GIS to examine the locational dimensions of business performance and community impacts.
As Shindale Seale, adjunct professor and DEI advisor notes, “It is imperative that the students understand corporate social responsibility and diversity, equity, and inclusion because this is going to be what they are walking into in their organizations. This is why the curriculum that we're working on here is focusing so heavily on this social responsibility and focusing so heavily on diversity equity and inclusion because it is what our students will be living in for the foreseeable future.”
We also bring these practices to our students through our “Business for a Better World” forums series as well as via guest speakers from successful, socially responsible corporations. This spring, we will host an Impact Day to celebrate the positive effects that our students and alumni have on society. Their presentations and mentoring help students learn and practice identifying sustainability-related business opportunities and applying responsibility in business strategy to achieve sustainable value and formulate a more resilient organization.
Graduating Socially Responsible Business Professionals and Leaders
Social responsibility is more important to a company’s image than ever before. Consumers, employees, and stakeholders not only prefer brands that are socially responsible, but they hold enterprises accountable for effecting social change.
Programs and initiatives won’t make a difference for brands or society without business professionals who can take a wider view of their organizations’ purposes and understand how decision-making affects the enterprise and the communities that enterprise is associated with. Our focus on social responsibility is one key in our ability to graduate business leaders who can create value and equitable impact within their organizations.