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Navigating the connection between business and social engagement

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 7:05 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A year ago, the anger over the killing of George Floyd sparked something we hadn’t really seen before. At least, not to this degree. Corporations and businesses donated big money to social justice causes.

Benevity, a company that provides platforms for donations, says, $166 million dollars went to social justice and racial equity causes in June 2020. It was the most it had ever seen in any category in its entire history.

It turns out doing good is often important for getting business. That’s where Josh Jacobson comes in.

He’s the CEO of Next Stage in Charlotte. It’s a consulting firm focused on helping companies navigate that connection between business and social engagement.

“The world’s changed quite a bit. Even just the word social good,” Jacobson say, “It’s something that we are driven to want to do to bring community inside of our companies. And increasingly, company executives are realizing you’ve got to have it to compete in a challenging workforce.”

For example, a 2018 Nielsen poll found 85 percent of Millennials look at how a company is helping to improve the environment before deciding whether to engage with them.

This isn’t just about customers, though. It’s also become crucial to recruiting.

“I think customer relations was probably where this lived up until a couple years ago,” Jacobson says, “Increasingly, we’re seeing employees really demanding that. How do nonprofit and social good experiences happen inside the company? The next generation employee really wants to see their community show up every day that they’re inside their company.”

Jacobson says Millennials and Gen Z employees want to be in a workplace that aligns with their values. What does that look like?

Next Stage recently interviewed dozens of local corporate and non-profit leaders as well as hundreds of millennial aged employees. It found:

  • Consumers want to see more authentic partnerships between their favorite brands and their favorite social causes.
  • Profit and purpose are not mutually exclusive concepts.
  • Social responsibility cannot just be a line in the budget.

Jacobson says it comes down to making an effort with authenticity.

“How are you engaged in caring about the environment, caring about social mobility, economic mobility in our communities? These are not easy things for companies to deal with,” he says, “You’ve got to be careful and authentic in how you do it. I think if we’re just trying to check a box or trying to be transactional, it’s not going to work. This needs to be something that’s authentic, that comes not top down but bottom up.”

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