Sustainable Business is Good Business

Incentive Magazine recently published an article on the benefits of offering socially responsible products in incentive programs. In the article, they revealed that new generations are attracted to companies with strong reputations for environmental and community responsibility. Thus, by rewarding employees with socially responsible products (such as those produced by social enterprises), employees know they are helping other people.

In a sense, this type of recognition serves several purposes. It recognizes employees, supports social enterprises and sends a powerful message to the community at large.

The article featured the success of Helping Hand Rewards, an organization that connects social enterprises with corporations interested in purchasing corporate gifts and employee rewards that help give back to underserved groups and communities. Our President and CEO, Michael Arkes, is the founder of HHR.

In the past five years, the number of companies interested in offering social enterprise products has grown significantly. In 2009, only three companies had a broad assortment of HHR products in their awards offerings. In 2010, that number more than doubled, and in 2011 that number will again double.

Are you incorporating socially responsible products in your award assortment? As an employee, are you being offered socially responsible products in your award assortment?

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Fruitcake You Don't Re-Gift: Merch Monday

There are certain types of gifts and goodies that reflect the Christmas season. Sometimes it's building a gingerbread house, making milk and cookies for Santa, or some old fashioned egg nog. One baked good has become a running joke for the holidays is fruitcake. A supposedly popular holiday gift that keeps on giving (thanks to re-gifting).

There is some fruitcake out there that is no joke. Fruitcake from WHOWomen

An organization called Women Helping Other Women has taken fruitcake up a whole new level. These new cakes remove any negative stereotype of fruitcake by creating several varieties that...wait for it....taste amazing. They offer three popular flavors of cake including "Berries, Cherries and Nuts," "Cranberry Orange Walnut," and "Chocolate Berries." Each of these cakes makes you re-think the whole stigma of re-gifting fruitcake.

Seriously. It legitimately tastes good...but that's not what makes these cakes special.

The organization that produces these cakes, Women Helping Other Women (WHOWomen), had a social mission behind their fruitcake business. Located in rural North Carolina, WHOWomen offers employment opportunities to women who are escaping domestic violence or homelessness situations. Many women in this scenario are unable to gain employment because of their backgrounds and lack of resources. However, through their work with WHOWomen, they are taught job skills training and even life skills training to help them break out of their poverty cycle. A Helping Hand Rewards partner, one success story of a WHOWomen participant is found here on their website.

Despite the fact that this socially responsible fruitcake isn't something that will see re-gifting, it remains a gift that will always give back.

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Why Social Responsibility? Why Now?

You know you've got a buzzworthy term when it becomes a widely-spread acronym. CSR - or corporate social responsibility - is one of those buzzworthy terms.

CSR is a widely used hashtag on Twitter and a concept big companies are jumping on almost as rapidly as social media. Consumers, potential hires and even other companies measure another company's worth in regards to its triple bottom line. Why has CSR taken precedent all of a sudden in regards to good business practices?

In many regards, brand image has a lot to do with it. Situations like what has happened with Enron/Adelphia-like companies (and more recently BP) have lowered the level of trust the public has with corporations. Lower trust = lower consumer confidence = lower brand value. Taking steps in social responsibility helps re-establish that trust, raise your brand value and build up that consumer confidence.

So how have some companies jumped in on the socially responsible bandwagon?

Of the bigger brands, Pepsi launced its Refresh Project. The company has sponsored a viral effort to encourage the sharing of good ideas that will help better the world we live in. If the idea receives enough votes, Pepsi donates money to start-up that idea and aid its launch. In this process, Pepsi has given away over $20 million to socially good ideas. This has helped Pepsi grow its digital fanbase and will most likely convert into more sales for the company. 

Other companies are incorporating social responsibility in their corporate gifts. In this Incentive Magazine article, Marriot utilized giving a washer basket from World of Good - a social enterprise helping overseas artisans create more sustainable lives - in their corporate gifting program. The article also discusses how other companies are utilizing products made by social enterprise groups to improve their employee incentive programs and boost their socially responsible practices simultaneously.

CSR promotes better business practices and is becoming less of a novelty and more of a necessity in today's world. More consumers (and employees) are seeking out more than just a good product - they are seeking companies with a solid triple bottom line.

The social responsibility train is moving full steam ahead. Are you on it?

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Better To Give Than Receive...

To say that a corporation taking the initiative to become socially responsible is a “good idea” would be a solid understatement. Sure, giving back gives all of us a warm and fuzzy feeling all over, but what’s in it for the giver? True giving is generally done with the attitude (or at least should be) of not expecting anything in return. However, a company that gives back will reap many benefits in return.
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