When we launched Prosper Strategies back in 2012, we made a very deliberate decision to work exclusively with changemaking organizations. For us, this included (and still includes) two specific types of clients: nonprofit organizations and for-profit social impact companies.
Most of the people we talked in those early days understood the nonprofit component of the niche we had chosen to define. But the for-profit social impact component drew a fair amount of skepticism and confusion. This was at a time when more people associated the term “social enterprise” with the tech company Salesforce than with the concept of using business as a force for good. There were only 370 B Corps in existence, and even corporate social responsibility was still viewed as a passing fad by most executives.
But we sensed that social enterprise, however “under the radar” it may have been flying at the time, was poised for major growth. And we were right. Social enterprises grew by 36 percent between 2013 and 2016 (far outpacing traditional SMEs), the number of universities offering graduate level social enterprise coursework has grown exponentially and The B Corp community is now 2,092 companies strong. It’s clear that social enterprise is much more than a trend.
But if you ask us, this is only the beginning. As social enterprise continues to move into the mainstream, we’re willing to bet our business on the prediction that this industry isn’t just going to survive–it’s going to thrive. In fact, we expect the companies that adopt a social impact focus will soon begin to outperform those that do not.
Here’s why today’s changemaking companies will be tomorrow’s market leaders. Here's why today's changemaking companies will be tomorrow's market leaders. Click To Tweet
Consumer preferences are shifting
There is a huge amount of new data confirming what we’ve all been sensing for awhile: consumers are increasingly prioritizing social impact when making purchasing decisions. According to research from Cone Communications, U.S. consumer purchasing of products associated with a cause is up 170 percent since 1993, and 91 percent of global consumers now say they’re likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause given comparable price and quality. Additionally, according to Nielsen, 50 percent of global consumers say they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services.
We only expect to see these numbers to continue to grow as millennials, who by many measures are more altruistic and cause-focused than previous generations, become the consumer majority. This is happening at a rapid rate, with the number of millennial consumers set to outnumber non-millennials by 22 million by the year 2030.
Top talent is flocking to social enterprise and changemaking organizations
Consumer preference isn’t the only thing that is shifting as millennials grow up. The workforce is changing, too, and it is changing in a way that is going to help social enterprises rise to the top.
Today’s best and brightest young employees are gravitating toward careers with social impact companies. A study for the Career Advisory Board conducted by Harris Interactive found that the number one factor that young adults ages 21 to 31 wanted in a successful career was a sense of meaning. Additionally, the Millennial Impact Report from Points of Light found that a company’s involvement in causes ranks as the third most important factor millennials prioritize when applying for a job. Finally, and most strikingly, a Net Impact survey of graduating college seniors states that two-thirds of graduating students rank making an impact through their job as their top priority, over having children, having a prestigious job, and yes, even being wealthy.
As any leader knows, it’s talent that separates the good organizations from the great, and as social enterprises continue to attract the best and brightest young employees, we expect them to continue to grow faster and perform better than traditional companies.As social enterprises continue to attract the brightest young employees, we expect them to continue to grow faster and perform better than traditional companies. Click To Tweet
Continued environmental and social challenges make the need for corporate and organizational responsibility greater than ever
It’s no secret that the world’s resources are becoming increasingly stretched as our population grows. And many believe that the recent election and political shifts will leave important social causes with even less government support than they’ve previously received. That means the impetus for private businesses to step up and lead massive social and environmental change will become stronger than ever. We expect see existing changemaking organizations scale and new ones come to the forefront in response. Consumers will at the same time come to expect even more from business and become more willing than ever to put their dollars toward companies that can make a difference.
Despite all these indications that changemaking companies are continuing to grow, 71 percent of global consumers report being confused by the messages that companies use to talk about their efforts to make the world a better place. That’s why we’ve made it our purpose to help “good” companies do better when it comes to marketing and communications.
If your company already identifies as a social enterprise, or even if you’ve just made a commitment to doing well by doing good, it’s clear that you’re poised for major success. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to the way you communicate about your impact and make sure it’s resonating with your stakeholders.
If you think your company has room to grow in this area, download our free resource A Crash Course in Building a Results-Driven Marketing Program for Your Changemaking Organization.
If impact isn’t yet central to your operations, now is a good time to take a hard look at what you do and see if there are natural and authentic ways to drive meaningful change in your work. If you want your company to be a future leader, you can’t afford not to.
Photo credit: Jay, Creative Commons via Google Images