The writer is co-founder of London-based shoe brand Sante + Wade.
Omicron may be throwing a veil over the UK as the Christmas holidays approach. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the feeling that it’s the season of goodwill.
This time of year, charities are seeing an increase in donations from the public and businesses are stepping up fundraising campaigns in an attempt to tap into investors’ Christmas bounty. But in recent years, there’s been a change: Investors aren’t just giving money to a company because it’s a ‘charitable’ time of year, they’re now questioning the whole. purpose work.
A widely accepted view today is that companies shouldn’t just prioritize profit over everything else. They must take into account their environmental or social objective.
This is something that I envisioned from the start of my shoe brand launch. At the time, with limited resources, I must admit having the feeling that profit and this idea of ”finality” did not mix well.
So how easily does the goal combine with a profit program for a small business? This is a particularly relevant question in these difficult times. According to David Obrart of St Martin’s Estates, a real estate agency, the two don’t sit side by side. “I’m not sure that businesses run like businesses can always meet a social goal. . . when the going and it’s about survival you can be as social as you want, if you’re short on funds there’s not much you can do.
The company has traditionally provided short-term accommodation at the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet. When that business evaporated when the pandemic hit in 2020, being forced to focus on long-term rentals gave St Martin’s Estates the space to think about the social contribution it can now make.
He has cut rates by up to 50 percent for commercial tenants and is exploring ways to help London’s young people move up the property ladder with a deposit assistance program for those without access to resources.
It’s a “social orientation” of the business that Obrart says could never have been entertained sooner. “For most of my life I have been hand in hand and paid off huge debts. . . It’s a bit of a luxury to be in a relatively comfortable position and to be able to put something back into the system.
Elsewhere, for eSkootr, which built a high-end electric racing scooter and a championship to go with it, it was about creating a movement. The company saw the rapid adoption of electric scooters by young people in cities as an opportunity to create a whole new sport. Next year will be his first season and he hopes the championship will democratize racing and accelerate the development of micromobility.
“I think the goal was there from day one to find out why we wanted to do this,” says Hrag Sarkissian, co-founder and CEO of eSkootr. “We were never there to launch an entertainment or a series of events. It was always bigger than that.
Building an entire ecosystem from scratch is a collaborative endeavor. The company has set up a regulatory body to oversee the championship and ensure that the technological and safety standards generated during the races end up being passed on to the consumer and they are working in partnership with the city centers where the events will take place.
Sarkisian notes that young consumers, who appreciate the importance of purpose and impact, demand more from brands. For small businesses with more modest aspirations, concerns about the impact on bottom lines are inescapable. Structuring your business in this way, Sarkisian adds, is not about sacrificing profits.
“When you make it part of your culture, you don’t have to exclude it, it just becomes part of what you do,” he says.
My experience is that the biggest challenge is not to take a more social approach, but rather how to fit that into a business that has been operating differently for years. It’s difficult, but it can be transformational.