work relating to the production, buying, and selling of goods or services.
We all know what a business is. We more or less would describe it as the above.
But business is changing.
It’s a natural assumption that the same forces that motivated someone to purchase an item in 1980 would be true for someone who purchases that same item in 2018. But that is not the case. The fact is that people change – and so do the times.
Conventional wisdom is that a successful business maximizes profit. And economics class likely taught you that something is worth what someone will pay for it.
But what makes a customer determine whether what your business does is worth $5, $10, or $15? Is it the quality? Is it the branding? Is it a feeling? Is it utility?
Meaning over function
Quality of products and services still matter, but consumers are beginning to look beyond the economic value of their purchases. More and more people want to make a social or environmentally-conscious impact through their everyday spending. They want their exchanges with businesses to have meaning in the world. They’re willing to pay more for the same products as long as it means making a difference.
As a result, we’re shifting to an economy where companies are increasingly seeing themselves as part of the social fabric that binds communities together. They feel a sense of responsibility, and companies that appeal to the lowest common denominator and are solely focused on profits are at risk of being left behind.
Humans fundamentally want to do good in the world. They want to create, contribute, and help. If you’re a business that can provide a quality service or product that can also connect customers to building something good in the world, then people will naturally gravitate to your company.
The business of change-engineering
There are different ways of giving back to the community as a business. One common way is to cut a check to a cause – you see this when a percentage of sales goes to research, a company’s foundation provides grants to nonprofits, or a company sponsors a charitable organization’s event. Giving back in this way is important and helps provide much-needed funding. Change-engineering, however, is a bit different.
Employees and customers alike are seeking more hands-on engagement in solving community challenges. They want to see meaningful, innovative leadership from businesses.
A change-engineering business partners with its customers and community to spur meaningful change. They sometimes even go out of their way to shift how they operationally function if it means doing their part in improving the world.
For example, Starbucks recently announced they will phase out plastic straws by 2020, and WeWork is no longer serving meat at company events in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
Regardless of how you might personally feel about either of those two stories, it reflects a motivation that goes beyond profits.
Gone are the days of business as usual. But what’s driving this change? Why are we seeing more businesses committed to doing good at work?
1. Millennials as a workforce
The average worker is going to spend more than 90,000 hours at work in their life. Millennials want to make those hours count. They’re drawn to companies that align with their values. If there’s a values gap, you’re going to struggle with hiring and retention. They have a higher standard when it comes to ethics and social responsibility and they’re willing to switch jobs to find the right match.
2. Millennials as consumers
By 2030, the total annual income earned by millennials is projected to surpass 4 trillion dollars. In the past year, they’ve become the largest living generation. And they care about changing the world – with their time, talents and treasure. They care about who they work for, who they volunteer with, and who they give their consumer dollars to. Millennials have a different perspective on the role of businesses in society. They want to know that when they spend money on something, they are also making the world a better place.
3. Rise of social consciousness
Technology has revolutionized communication and the way we experience the world. We have endless information at our fingertips, we are able to witness events across the world in real-time, stories go viral, and on the whole we’re more aware of the issues we’re facing. But more importantly, people recognize they can make an impact in solving those issues – and they want to partner with companies who are taking the lead.
4. We got 99 problems
We’re facing huge challenges every day – things we’ve typically tasked nonprofits and government with handling, such as climate change. But the problems are too big to go at it alone, businesses are a crucial piece to innovating sustainable solutions.
What does a change-engineering business look like?
Let’s take a look at Warby Parker. The company sells eyeglasses online and was started in 2010 by four classmates with no experience in selling eyeglasses. Today, less than a decade in existence, they are valued at $1.75 billion.
But they’re not your run-of-the-mill business.
They were frustrated by high-priced frames that at one point left one of the founders without glasses for their first semester of grad school. So they innovated and found a solution. But they also looked beyond profits.
On their website you’ll find this particular stand-alone line in their story:
“We also believe everyone has a right to see.”
It’s a bold statement. One they could chalk up to their willingness to provide affordable, quality eyewear to the average consumer, but it has a much broader application. They also seek to address vision impairment for people around the world who don’t have access to corrective lenses. Talk about vision.
They don’t go about changing the world alone either. They found a nonprofit partner in VisionSpring that fundamentally understands the problem and together they’re making a more meaningful impact than they could have ever done alone.
Need more examples?
- Ben & Jerry’s identifies a three-part mission that drives their decision-making. One of those parts being: To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally.
- Dave’s Killer Bread, where they believe in providing second chances to people with criminal backgrounds in order to help reduce recidivism rates in the United States. They even started a foundation to educate and encourage other organizations to become a Second Chance Employer.
- Aspiration is in the business of socially-conscious and sustainable banking. They let their customers determine their own fees. On top of that, they’re committed to making investments that make the world a better place and give 10% back to charities. You can learn more about how their company started from the CEO himself on Episode 13 of our podcast.
Change-engineering has many faces, and there are multiple ways to embody change-engineering as a company. From the way you hire people, how you treat them, the materials you use in the office or in products, to partnering with a nonprofit to solve a local challenge. There’s no one-size-fits all approach, but there’s also no reason to not start making a change today.
At Javelina, change-engineering is what we do. Whether you’re a business, nonprofit or campaign, we want to help you change the world.
If you’re interested in learning more about how your business can become involved in change-engineering or have questions then you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.