“With great power comes great responsibility.” This sage advice guided a certain web-shooting teenage superhero, through decades of comic book issues, retcons, and movie franchise drama. It can also be a good tip for entrepreneurs. Becoming the owner of a successful business affords certain privileges and influence. You can use that influence to try to call attention to certain issues about which you’re passionate and make the world a better place. Some might even argue that if you have such influence, you have an obligation to use it for good, in the same way that Spiderman had an obligation to use his superpowers for good. But this isn’t such a difficult thing to grasp. Most of us want to do good in some way.

Long before Uncle Ben spoke those wise words, however, Sir John Dahlberg-Acton had a different quote about power: “power corrupts.” This is a quote that tends to put powerful people on the defensive, but it doesn’t mean that every powerful person is corrupt. Instead, it speaks to a fact that many rising entrepreneurs are beginning to realize: the more power you gain, the more difficult it is not to be corrupted. You may be faced with a powerful potential business partner who could skyrocket your business…even if you don’t quite agree with the way they do business. You may want to use your social media platforms to take a stance on a controversial but important issue, but fear losing your much of your customer base in doing so. The more successful you become, the more power you have to make socially conscious decisions, but your choices won’t seem as simple and clear as you imagined on the outset.

The good news is we’ve reached a time when many entrepreneurs don’t have to choose between being socially conscious or being a successful business. In fact, more and more consumers are concerned with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the companies they support. According to public opinion surveys, 88% of consumers say they would prefer the businesses they support do their part to improve society and the environment. Employees, too, are taking a stance, with 83% of employees saying they would quit their job if they realized their employers profited from child labor. That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to be both socially conscious and expand your business, but it’s not impossible.

image from Pixabay

Surround Yourself  With Socially Conscious Partners

It can be difficult to go against the tide on your own, and the good news is you don’t have to. Think about the businesses that you admire from a CSR standpoint: the ones who don’t just claim to care about their customers and employees but actually put that claim into practice. What about the charities you most admire? Reach out to those businesses and organizations and suggest a partnership. The stronger your network of socially conscious partners, the stronger your commitment to your social responsibility will be.

You should also consider this when hiring. Find employees who care about the same things your company cares about, and promote employees who embody the values you want your company to hold.

Cut Down on Waste

The precarious state of the environment is one of the biggest concerns in today’s society. Many consumers feel it’s important to be mindful of the resources we use and not to waste what we don’t need, and they want to support companies who feel the same way. Successful businesses can not only practice waste reduction, but they can lead an example for their peers to do the same. Sometimes, this can be as simple as placing recycling bins all throughout the office and storefront or using recycled paper and reused envelopes for office supplies. Other times, it’s a change that will have to go through the whole supply chain, a decision to use recycled materials for your products and to order supplies in bulk so as to cut down on packaging waste.

Reward Socially Conscious Practices

In order to be a socially conscious entrepreneur, your business has to be socially conscious, and your business is the employees that keep it going. So find ways to get them involved. Maybe you can raise money for a charity of your choice, and award those who raise the most with time off or casual wear privileges. Make a list of eco-friendly choices and assign bonuses for each one, to be turned in at the end of the quarter. Offer paid volunteer days. Possibly most of all, open your door to employees who have suggestions of ways that your company can be more socially conscious. Incentivizing your employees to get involved in socially conscious practices will help your company to be able to make more of an impact, and it will help them feel more excited and proud to work there.

Set Achievable Goals

No matter how successful you become, you’re not going to be able to achieve world peace or end world hunger. You can’t save the whole world with socially conscious practices. Instead, focus on the things that mean the most to you as a person. Do you want to help reduce homelessness in your city? Make the world a little greener? Take a stand against child labor and sweatshops? Set goals that you can manage based on your capabilities as an entrepreneur. If you have the opportunity to do more, by all means, do more. But trying to do everything at once often leads to being able to do little if anything at all.

Most beginning entrepreneurs dream of becoming successful enough to make a difference, but the more successful they become, the more complicated that seems. One of the best things you can do as a socially conscious entrepreneur is to surround yourself with people, business partners, consumers, employees, who hold you accountable to your principles. Remember that the more powerful and successful you become, the more responsibility you have. Practice these tips and you can use that success to make a positive impact on the world around you.

 

This is a guest post by Josh Elkin, founder of