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Should business have a social conscience?

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Business and social change

Change is a constant of the world we live in, and wherever possible, Australians love to embrace change for the better!

In business, the drive to make a positive impact is creating a tangible shift from valuing only the financial bottom-line to finding purpose in the form of social change, namely, developing a social conscience.

In our panel discussion this week, we ask founding board member of RUOK?, Graeme Cowan; CEO of Pro Purpose, Alana Nicholls; and CEO and chief storyteller of the ImpactInstitute, Mark Jones, Should business have a social conscience?

Mark Jones believes that having social conscience within a business is extremely important. He explains that, traditionally, businesses have aimed to work in the interests of the owners, shareholders, investors, government and other overseeing institutions, but that this is no longer enough. There is a growing trend towards a societal focus such as diversity and ethical sourcing.

"There is an incredible shift in society at the moment where we’ve realised that making money is not enough … We now need to think about who these people are that we need to serve. Who actually benefits, or in some cases suffers, from the work that your organisation does?”

Alana Nicholls agrees, emphasising that when purpose is given a place of importance alongside profit, a business is far more likely to weather the highs and lows common to any business owner’s journey.

“When you can be centred around purpose, it just gives you that motivation to keep going and to keep inspiring your team … It’s not just 'profit profit profit', but it’s actually ‘how can you bring this world of profit and purpose together?’”

Graeme Cowan challenges the prioritisation of profit over a social conscience in terms of the costly financial impact a business will suffer should it choose to ignore the wellbeing of its employees.

Drawing on his expertise as an author and speaker on mental health, he talks about his work in developing a mental health calculator. It equips businesses to measure the financial cost of poor mental health, and to measure progress as social changes are developed within a business to improve wellbeing.

"Research shows that 44% of absenteeism is directly linked to mental health issues … We’ve created a mental health calculator to make it really easy for companies to know the indicative costs of bad mental health … If you don’t know the dollars that it’s costing you, how can you measure progress?”

Alana furthers this, saying that business goals also must be measured in order to see the impact of social change both on business outcomes and employee motivation and productivity.

“Numbers don’t lie… When you can actually measure, you can see the positive influence we’re having… When you can tie your key performance indicators and your business to impact, and your team can see how they correlate… When they know the ‘why’, we see performance go up.”

Among the many excellent points the panellists make during the discussion, one common thread emerges; that the development of a social conscience and seeking social change is both attainable and desirable within any modern business model.

Businesses have the power to set trends and create positive impact for the betterment of society on a broad scale, and when this power is used in the right ways, the results can be incredible.

See the SHOULD BUSINESS HAVE A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE? discussion and the full catalogue of Helping Hands panels at Catch up on full episodes of Helping Hands on 9NOW.


#helpinghandstvau #makingtheworldabetterplace #paneldiscussion #impactinstitute #ruokday #propurpose #socialresponsibility #business #sis2024 #togetherforgood #socialchange #socialconscience #positiveimpact

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* The producers of Helping Hands and selected panellists are available for interview on radio, TV, print and online to discuss this topic. Get in touch at



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