19 Tangible Ways to Make Social Impact Part of Your Business Model13 min read
For many businesses, having an impact on the world is nearly as important as generating a profit. And it isn’t difficult to see why—consumers want to support meaningful causes; employees want their efforts to make a difference; and business owners want their entrepreneurial journeys to spark positive change. This purpose-meets-profit mentality is becoming increasingly more common as consumers are four times more likely to purchase from a purposeful brand that aligns with their values.
No matter your industry or company size, there are endless ways to incorporate social impact into business. Take it from the following 19 trailblazing women from the Dreamers & Doers collective—making an impact on the world can take many forms, from supporting research foundations with a portion of revenue to collaborating with those who have shared values.
Whether you’re looking for fresh ideas to incorporate into your social impact strategy or are just getting started, we hope the following pieces of advice inspire you to take action today.
Founder of Brave Philanthropist, a platform that aims to revolutionize philanthropy for women and girls by amplifying, strengthening, and democratizing giving.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: Social impact starts with purpose. For organizations looking to define what this looks like, I recommend starting with inspiration from your organization’s mission—the why you do what you do. Then, start thinking about how your mission connects to outcomes that can do more good in the world. Lastly, and most importantly, answer the question, “Is there a social cause that galvanizes not only you but your employees to volunteer your hours, raise funds, and donate a percentage of your sales or services to an issue that matters?”
My advice: You have to start somewhere. So start. Far too often, I have conversations with small business owners and individuals who worry about the size and scope of their impact. But starting is far better than not taking any action at all.
Co-Founder and CMO of Chezie, an all-in-one solution that helps companies build impactful employee resource groups.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: As a Black woman working in corporate America, I know what it’s like to not feel like I belong in the workplace. Chezie’s sole mission is to make inclusion the standard, and we have tangibly done that by offering free resources to employee resource group leaders. It seems that DEI practitioners are super secretive when it comes to best practices for employee resource groups. So from our inception, we decided to make these resources accessible to everyone who was trying to make their workplaces more inclusive and equitable.
My advice: Make it accessible and the rest will follow. While our resources are free for everyone to utilize, they’ve also ended up being our biggest lead generator because our users now look at us as thought-leaders in the space.
Founder of Chalonne, creating the world’s most luxurious Apple Watch bands, hand-crafted in France by skilled artisans, using only the finest materials.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: As a woman who worked in the corporate world for many years, I spent a lot of time thinking about my company’s culture and decided to make female empowerment an integral part of Chalonne’s DNA. My ideal is for Chalonne to help empower women and support them in ways that truly make a difference in their lives, and that starts with women’s health. Chalonne donates 4 percent of all retail sales year-round on Chalonne.com to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which helps further important research to help find a cure for a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of women in the United States each year. The ultimate goal is for Chalonne to be successful enough to extend our mission and support other organizations who champion health, economic, and educational opportunities for women.
My advice: Founders should focus on what matters to them personally and tailor their social impact program to connect with their vision and values, so it can be truly authentic. It comes down to a matter of culture—what do you want your company to stand for and why is it a great place to work? It’s a win-win. Doing good in the world makes a difference at every level, for every employee, knowing that a company has a goal and vision beyond the success of their immediate business.
Founder and CEO of Headlamp, a platform to discover and book female instructors outdoors.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: My business is highly mission-driven, so I collaborate with female instructors who share my values, which are diversifying and expanding accessibility to the outdoors. I think of my business as a managed marketplace where I carefully select the supply to make sure the business reflects my mission.
My advice: Prioritize your mission statement and surround yourself with mission-driven founders and advisors. It’s easy to get “lost” in the startup ecosystem, so connecting with other mission-driven entrepreneurs is a great way to stay on track.
Founder of Sonderlier, a sustainable clothing brand offering women timeless and versatile clothing with pajama-like comfort.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: Social impact is in every part of our business. We design to combat the throw-away culture from fast fashion that has led to the explosion of clothing waste. Our versatile styles are consciously designed using eco-friendly materials to be worn in many ways and for years to come. We work with ethical factories based in the U.S. to reduce the carbon footprint of our supply chain, and to ensure fair treatment of the workers who make our clothes. We also exclusively use recycled and compostable packaging materials, and we plant a tree for each piece of clothing purchased.
My advice: I believe a lot is possible with social impact as long as we are genuinely willing to change. I’d advise those who are hoping to make social impact a part of their business to start re-evaluating each aspect of their business, and ask if there’s a more socially positive way of achieving the same or even better result. Then set priorities based on feasibility and impact.
Creative Director at Here For Good Films, a video production company on a mission to tell stories about people doing good and leaving their communities better than they found them.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: Our mission is to help brands elevate their impact through video but we recognize that not all businesses and non-governmental organizations have the funds for high-quality video content. We offer a Giveback Scholarship Program where we do just that: we give back to businesses and nonprofits that are changing communities through photo and video. Not only does this allow for high-quality content that can be leveraged to elevate the good they are doing, but it also allows us to pay fair wages to our contractors who are helping us tell these stories. We know that we can’t do all the good in the world, but we can come alongside and help amplify the good others are doing through photo and video.
My advice: If you’re hoping to make social impact part of your business, you must commit to taking action. For us, it started with our core values which led to tangible actions. If you’re unsure how to incorporate social impact into your business, start by looking at how you can partner with and support businesses already making a social impact in your community.
Founder and CEO of Romp + Tumble, an organization that curates and rents bundles of baby and toddler clothes for newborns to age three.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: The U.S has a waste problem, with 85 percent of textiles ending up in landfills. Our circular model extends the life of these clothes and has the additional benefit of making sustainability easy for growing families. By renting and exchanging clothes, parents, and primarily moms, are able to reduce their hours of domestic labor.
My advice: Don’t be afraid to lean into your impact early on and don’t assume that you can’t build a profitable business around it. Leading with impact will keep you focused on the problem you are trying to solve.
Founder and CEO of The Mad Ones, a venture studio for innovative ideas and breakers of the status quo.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: With the increase in resignations and career shifts that happened throughout the pandemic, women, and especially mothers, were hit the hardest financially. We have made founder mentoring a core part of our service. We are focused on female founders and mothers who are looking to launch their own tech startup and are closing the gap by connecting them to capital.
My advice: Find the cause and societal problem that really bugs you to think about. Then collaborate with others who are also trying to solve that problem.
Founder and CEO of BetterMe, a leading Ukrainian healthcare company.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: My company’s mission is making a healthy lifestyle as inclusive as possible. However, today 36 million Ukrainians are living in constant fear, as they lost control over their life and they can’t find balance. Throughout our five years in business, BetterMe gathered tons of useful content for a healthy body and mind from experts, and in these times of uncertainty, we are sharing all that we know about mental stability, coping with emotions, and preventing illnesses with Ukrainians on a charitable basis.
My advice: Follow your feeling of empathy, not trends or social expectations. It boosts your motivation, and ensures you have a clear vision and understanding of why you are doing this.
Founder of Rou Collective, a full-service creative agency dedicated to building unforgettable brands and designs for social good.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: While building unforgettable brands and eye-catching designs allows our clients to be heard loud and clear, we believe in being the voice for those who are not always heard. Every year, Rou Collective donates a percentage of our revenue to a charity of our team’s choice for the year that amplifies voices and cares for populations who may be overlooked by the mainstream media.
My advice: There are always ways you can give back, no matter what business you have or industry you’re in.
Head of Revenue at SafetyWing, the first truly global health insurance company that equips distributed companies and digital nomads with benefits wherever they go.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: SafetyWing strives to make a social impact by creating a global social safety net so companies can build a great team from anywhere and employees have the ultimate freedom in choosing where to work and live. We believe that the 9 to 5 is antiquated and that giving employees the flexibility to be with family, pursue travel, and choose the hours they work makes them happier, healthier, and more productive. When people don’t feel tethered, a truly limitless and joyful life begins.
My advice: Companies exist to provide something that people want, and it’s the same with a company’s employees. It doesn’t make sense to claim social impact in your mission if you don’t walk the walk and support your workers as well. Employees deserve benefits that reflect how you value them as workers and humans.
Co-Founder and COO of The Rise Journey, an HR strategy and organizational culture consultancy.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: We built The Rise Journey on the ethos that all businesses deserve equitable HR and diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility (DEIBA) practices to help facilitate positive organizational change, even if they are small businesses, have lean HR teams, or have limited resources. We make the world a better place to work by partnering with workplaces to address the gap in DEIBA and organizational development.
My advice: Choose something and do it. It does not have to be something dramatic. For example, we made sure that all client gifts were sustainable, eco-friendly, and from an organization that also prioritized social good.
Founder of Sandra By Design, empowering impact-driven teams to build thriving work cultures and socially impactful solutions.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: I use social impact as my top criteria for selecting suppliers, clients, and partners. I start by evaluating values on both an individual and organizational level and ensuring sustainable development goals align with my own. I then look for a track record of accountability, ethical decision-making, and concrete actions that further inclusion, equity and social justice. I strongly believe that who we choose to work with is a reflection of our own values and commitment to do good in the world.
My advice: Social impact doesn’t mean big gestures of pro bono work, volunteering, and philanthropy. We can have an impact with small day-to-day actions and behaviors, such as using inclusive language and diversifying perspectives within teams and projects, which can build up to change at a larger scale.
Co-Founder of The SHE Mark, making it easier to identify and support women-led businesses.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: One tangible way we have made social impact a part of our business is by being very intentional about who we choose to work with as contractors, vendors, and consultants. Instead of going the easiest, fastest, or cheapest route, we take the time and energy to seek out and spend money with businesses and individuals that are diverse, mission-oriented, and/or values-aligned. This can be something as big as choosing a brand strategist to hire or as small as deciding what coffee shop to work out of.
My advice: I recommend adding a “social impact filter” to every decision you make, both large and small. Really look at every decision through a lens of, “what positive impact is this choice having outside of my business?”
Founder of LightWorks, empowering executives and their teams to flourish both professionally and personally.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: I created LightWorks after studying positive psychology several years ago. I felt certain that introducing this material to teams and individuals in innovative and impactful ways would benefit them both at work and in life. The more self-aware we each are, the better we can show up authentically and fully present, which invites more meaning, purpose, and connection everywhere we go in life. And as we move through life this way we inspire others to do the same, elevating one another to a deeper level of positivity, purpose, and potential.
My advice: Well-being is not just a nice-to-have. It’s also a business imperative. When leaders prioritize their employees’ well-being and empower all managers to do the same, we will not only build loyalty and trust but also see impressive business lifts.
Founder of Ninth Street Collective, providing professional development services for artists.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: We empower artists to share their unique perspectives with the world and to shine a light on socially-engaged issues that others may overlook. When building NSC, I also wanted to build in tangible ways to create social impact. We donate a significant portion of our workshop proceeds to social justice, arts, and domestic violence survivor nonprofits and provide free consultations to BIPOC, transgender, and gay artists. We also continually seek ideas from our artists to support positive change in our communities.
My advice: When building your business and making decisions about how each aspect of how it will operate, be deliberate in considering how positive social impact can be incorporated. If you’re at an existing business and looking to make social impact a component, be creative about how to do so, even if the changes feel incremental.
Chief of Staff at Motherly, a well-being brand and online community empowering mothers to thrive.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: At Motherly, we take motherhood seriously because when mothers thrive, families and communities thrive. We recently shared results from our State of Motherhood study, where we surveyed more than 17,000 moms and weighted our data to the U.S. census. Our study report gives mothers a voice in a large scale, statistically significant way, empowering them and their allies to advocate for change inside their families, with their employers, and through their votes in political elections. It is critical to give voice to groups of people that have historically been voiceless.
My advice: You first must decide what cause is important to you because you cannot focus on everything. Pick one avenue and stick with it, because success is measured in the good we do in the world and how often we give back.
Co-Founder of Curated People, providing high-end and fun virtual events for remote teams and clients, globally.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: Curated People’s ultimate mission is to unite people in celebration, globally. In a work-from-anywhere world, we are able to gather people to celebrate each other through creative virtual events. This is extremely important for the well-being of employees and to continue building a thriving and healthy company culture for businesses. With so much going on in the world and everyone’s daily lives, we continue to strive toward bringing joy and positivity to people from all over.
My advice: Whenever you build a business with people and society as a priority, you are already on the right track. I highly encourage focusing on your company’s big vision and then honing in on how the intricacies of the day-to-day can build towards that. At the end of the day, your customers will always remember how you made them feel.
Founder and CEO of Ossa Collective Inc., a women’s podcast network on a mission to increase the visibility, influence, and earning power of women in the podcast industry.
How I’ve incorporated social impact: Ossa is a podcast advertising marketplace with more than 1,400 podcasts reaching over 12.7 million monthly listeners, focusing primarily on women and non-binary podcasters. We target brands and advertisers looking to reach female audiences via our pioneering technology. The U.S. economy is dominated by women who account for 85 percent of the purchasing power. Furthermore, our product is the ultimate single-source platform for podcast metrics, allowing podcasters to receive advertising and sponsorship orders and receive payments based on data-driven insights.
My advice: Your company’s mission should align with your values, and it should be clearly communicated to your customers and employees. Ensure that all activities, internal and external, support your company’s values.
All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, an award-winning community and diverse ecosystem amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women through PR opportunities, authentic connection, and high-impact resources. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to its monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.