Earlier this year, I was asked to speak to the capstone class of an MBA program. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that my book, Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies was the first business planning book to include the topic of Social Responsibility and Social Ventures. I mentioned that when I added those in the 1990s, I truly thought it might cost me sales. “After all,” I said, “at that time, common business wisdom viewed the only goal of a business was to make money—to increase profits and shareholder value. If there were causes the business owners or founders were concerned about, they should just write out a donation with their own money. Business had no business being concerned about social causes.”
Well, did I ever unleash a firestorm of comments! The students—in their early to late twenties—found it almost impossible to believe that a business would not consider social responsibility as part of its core mission.
Today’s students have grown up expecting companies to put social responsibility and social causes front and center. They don’t question how or why companies such as Tom’s Shoes, Warby Parker, and Bombas Socks routinely give away one of their products for each one sold. They expect companies to explain where they source their materials from, how they treat their employees and vendors, and what impact they are having on the environment.
Today’s students expect social responsibility to be a core component of their business education. They want to know what it means to be a “B” corporation, how to balance social goals with profitability, and much more. So be sure to make it part of their business plan projects and consider adding it to your course syllabi and business programs.