Social responsibility is a perpetual hot topic of conversation. Australia is historically a nation who gets behind a good cause — we back the underdog, rally for equality and call for action on important issues, most recently, the rising cost of living. But whose responsibility is it to provide answers for the social issues we face here in Australia and around the world?
This week’s Helping Hands panel discussion looks at the responsibility business can have in leading both the narrative and action for social issues. Host, Laura Bennett, is joined in the studio by Mark Jones, CEO and chief storyteller at the ImpactInstitute; Alana Nicholls, founder and CEO of Pro Purpose; and Graeme Cowan, Mental Health Author and Speaker, to explore this important topic.
Mark Jones explains that the first step for business, before engaging in the sphere of influencing social change, is to come from a place of authenticity and credibility and to not be tempted to jump on a bandwagon of popularity. He says that business has an enormous potential to be known for doing good things in the community and looking after the environment, but if it’s not grounded and led well, the risks are real. “Customers will, quite simply, vote with their feet or their wallets. They just won’t buy your product if they don’t believe you.”
Alana agrees that careful wisdom must be employed by businesses keen to engage in the social sphere. Even with the most carefully thought-out values and integrity, division can result from diverse thinking and beliefs and that there is potential to be misunderstood. Alana tells business leaders wanting to discover their giving purpose through Pro Purpose that they should aim for unity among diversity. Even if you’re not universally liked, the benefits of having an impact within the everyday function of your business both socially and among clients and staff who believe alongside you in your purpose shouldn’t be underestimated.
Graeme adds that implementing social responsibility within the internal function of a business is just as important as any external focus, having an impact on management style for the sake of staff wellbeing. “The little things of care and compassion really build and compound, and they flow out to the community, they flow out to customers, but it’s got to be genuine — genuine care and connection. You can’t fake it, people will see it a mile off if you try.”
Graeme rounds out these thoughts with a concluding comparison between the economic markers of Australia and New Zealand. “At the moment, (the success of Australian business) is measured in Gross Domestic Product — but that just relates to lots of stuff … New Zealand has chosen to measure a wellbeing index … it’s all about creating a better culture, a better nation and one that is committed to the social good.”
Among the many excellent points our panellists agreed on, all affirmed that, whether big or large, private, or publicly held corporations, Australian business holds the greatest potential for funding social change and executing socially responsible solutions. The wonderful challenge here for business is to realise their ability to write both the narrative and effect the outcomes. Adopting social responsibility is an exciting opportunity, not extra pressure; something to integrate in a natural and sustainable way.
Graeme, Mark and Alana will join host, Laura Bennett, to share so much more from their expertise on BUSINESS AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY when Helping Hands airs from Saturday 17 February 2024 on 9GEM, Channel 9 and 9NOW.
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