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Corporate advocacy: Why community means business

In the digital age, businesses’ morals and the communities they align themselves with have become a crucial issue for consumers.

There is a growing trend for businesses to take a stand on significant societal concerns, both locally and globally. From Australian businesses, large and small, showing support for the ‘yes’ vote in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, to conglomerates in the United States agitating for global reform regarding climate change, fewer businesses are feeling their ethics and principles will detract from their overall operations.

This comes at a highly politicised time for change and renewal, with many causes, charities and interest groups calling for greater awareness and funds, and more businesses willing to lend a helping hand.

Sustainability through community

Sustainability is more than caring for the environment, just as corporate social responsibility is about more than ensuring the wellbeing of your employees. Both concepts are linked to the potential for a business to go beyond its immediate capacity as an organisation, and to have a vision for where they sit in the wider society and culture.

To achieve this, one must look at businesses’ immediate community. Communities are social support systems, and can be integral to the vision of your business. This can be local, within the suburb your business is based in, or across international borders.

As globalisation has led to international connectivity, your community may move beyond your immediate geography. Company culture can exist across business and international boundaries also, so a cause is never too big or too far away for a business to support.

With community in mind, you are free to consider the issues that resonate with you as a thought leader, or issues that are important to your wider community – from staff, to family, to your physical neighbours. Thus, community in business can go beyond traditional networks of investment to include socioeconomic issues you believe should have more traction.

At IDEAS, we are a great example of an organisation – and industry – that benefits from community business partners that assist us in a variety of areas. We also benefit from engaged thought leaders outside our sector of operation who assist in strategic visioning days.

We find that leaders from diverse sectors such as media relations, lobbying, graphic design, digital agencies, international development and travel can bring incisive opinion and advice in a hospitable environment. Feedback can also be illuminating about the perceived quality of the processes engaged by the host organisation, as well as the advantage of influencing the influencers.

Commercial enterprises can look with confidence to the third sector if they seek a values match for partnering activities, as well as a quality accreditation such as ISO:9001:2015.

In light of the New South Wales Government pulling funding across a swathe of successful organisations, IDEAS is just one of a number of not-for-profits in the disability sector that may be left in the lurch. So organisations like IDEAS are exemples of how businesses can partner up, fund and support valuable organisations that make a difference to people’s lives.

Leadership through advocacy

Businesses’ ethics may seem irrelevant, but people do take notice. Consumers are increasingly aware of businesses’ moral standpoint, and your associations within your immediate community and beyond may well determine whether an individual chooses your service over a competitor’s.

By creating and maintaining a company stance on certain issues, your business can take the lead in its sector through advocacy, support and contributing to dialogue, to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of community issues, while also strategically attracting like-minded and socially conscious consumers.

However, transparent advocacy is not without its drawbacks. Criticism abounds for insincere activism – and you need to make sure that your company’s stance is echoed within its walls.
This is most noticeable on social media, where a consumer has the ability to actively acknowledge hypocritical attitudes and behaviours. In forming your advocacy and community voice, your business needs to determine its own specific concerns and goals and stick to them.

In implementing ethics directly into your business, you can have an entrepreneurial impact through opening up on social issues, raising awareness and funds, mobilising people to action. Consumers are taking note of businesses’ ideals more than ever, and you can leverage your status as a business to influence social good, while defining your business as one that stand by its ethics.

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