Why a Cause-Driven Business is What the World Needs

Photo by  2Photo Pots

Photo by 2Photo Pots

The phrase, “Cause-Driven”  gets thrown around a lot recently.  I’ve heard myself say these exact words: “I finally left the corporate world as I want to use my marketing expertise to help organizations who are 'cause-driven' and hold the same values I do.”

Well I’m busted!

First that sounds a little righteous, as many corporations and for-profit companies exist within the business world that are cause-driven.  Second, do we even understand what it means to be cause-driven?  And who decides whether an organization is cause-driven?

Let’s review some key trends around why this matters:

1.       According to the 2015 Millennial Impact, Millennials aren’t interested in structures, institutions and organizations, but rather in the people they help and the issues they support. A 2016 Survey of Millennials, conducted through Mobile Cause, “The New Generation of Giving,” 87% of Millennials donated to charities last year. That is more than any other age group.

In sum, Millennials, now the largest population group, say that a major factor in making purchasing decisions and employment choices, is based on whether an organization is “cause- driven” and reflects their own values.

2.       There is a growing movement among for-profit companies, to file their laws of incorporation as a “Benefit Corporation or Benefit Company."  This legal designation means allowing the company to move beyond the purpose of generating profit to only serve the financial interests of shareholders --- but to also accommodate and allow profits to be used to benefit the “greater good.” Some Benefit Corporations may even choose to go through a rigorous third-party certification process and become “B Corps.”  

3.       Many retiring Baby Boomers are choosing to stay active, often as volunteers or entrepreneurs, using  their talent and energy to participate in efforts to improve the environment and work toward social justice. They often use the phrase, “It’s time to give back.” 

In other words within the new world order, an emerging strong contingent believes a shift is occurring:

“The overarching goal is not profit but IMPACT!” 

- Michelle Obama, July, 2016

This is the evolution of organizations and corporations who dedicate themselves to the triple bottom line:  People, Profit, Planet. This is a framework that touches  social, environmental (or ecological) and financial aspects. 

But beware of the phrase and exploiting its marketing value!

It’s popular to claim you are “cause-driven,” or that you are a Benefit Corporation, as this phrase resonates with current customer preferences. So take note as this next step is very important: You must pass the sniff test. We are talking about being authentic. Demonstrating you practice what you preach. Millennials are adept at ferreting out the truth around an organization and with the transparency of social media you must  be honest about your efforts. 

There is also going to be more and more auditing and scrutinizing of Benefit Corporations.  They are required to complete an annual “Benefit Report” outlining how they fulfilled their promise to practice the principles outlined in the tenets they've  agreed to follow in becoming a Benefit Company --- and what impact they are making.  This report has to be shared publicly!  Today very few Benefit Corporations have complied with this requirement, as no one has been checking.  But those in the know say those days may be ending.  

So to determine if your business is right for becoming a "cause-driven" company, ask yourself these questions:

1.       Is it time for a “manifesto statement” describing the very essence or heart of the company, that goes beyond a vision or mission and demonstrates your "Cause?"  (P.S. we can help you with this)

2.       Is it time to explore becoming a Benefit Corporation?  If so check with the Secretary of State’s office within your state of residence.

3.       Do you practice the principles reflected in the triple bottom line?

a.       People – truly investing in your employees

b.       Profit – using profits for the better good – making an impact

c.       Planet – practicing good stewardship of our planet

4.       Are you sincere, authentic, honest and put your money where your mouth is? Words are easy, but actions are what matter.  

THE TIME IS NOW… Take the step, and together with other cause-driven individuals and businesses, we can make the world a more sustainable and equitable world for ALL.

 To get our new book, "Putting Soul Into Business: How the Benefit Corporation is Transforming American Business," simply click here.


MaryAnne Harmer