Airbnb saw an opportunity to render support when turmoil spread across Afghanistan as the U.S. announced withdrawal of military forces.
The company offered to temporarily house as many as 20,000 Afghan refugees globally, with Airbnb’s chief executive expressing hope that others would be inspired to follow the company’s lead.
The move was just one example of how many multinational corporations have robust corporate responsibility programs that can move with lightning speed to respond quickly and effectively when disaster strikes.
But it’s not just larger corporations that possess the wherewithal to help in significant ways during times of need. Small and midsize businesses also can seize the opportunity to assist, says Maggie Z. Miller, the ForbesBooks co-author with Hannah Nokes of Magnify Your Impact: Powering Profit with Purpose.
“They may not have the focused attention or financial resources of bigger companies, but they can create a plan for their community impact to be valuable and effective,” Miller says. “These companies are often more nimble and able to act quickly and efficiently. They can capture the opportunity to leverage the power of impact to support their success.”
The Many Ways To Help
All businesses, regardless of size, have the potential to make a difference, whether they realize it or not, say Miller and Nokes, who are co-founders of Magnify Impact, a company that helps business leaders not only be prepared to react swiftly in times of crisis, but build a proactive strategy for effective social impact.
“Businesses have unique abilities and access to resources to solve problems for their employees, customers, communities, and even the planet,” Nokes says. “Companies can use these unique talents to create shared value, driving their competitive advantage while helping make a tremendous impact in their operating communities and the world.”
Miller and Nokes refer to those resources and talents as a company’s “superpowers.” Sometimes the superpower relates directly to the company’s product or service, as was the case for Airbnb. Another example of this is Warby Parker, which specializes in eyewear. Since 2010 the company has given away 8 million pairs of glasses to people in need around the world under its Buy a Pair/Give a Pair program. Due to COVID-19, Warby Parker shifted its efforts to distributing personal protective equipment and preventative health supplies to healthcare workers and communities in need.
A company’s superpowers can go beyond its product or service, Nokes says.
“It can also mean expertise, knowledge, resources, skills, people or other assets that you put into action,” she says.
Meeting Expectations Of Employees And Customers
Increasingly, companies are understanding that social impact is a critical component to an effective business strategy. One trend that emerged during the COVID pandemic is that purpose-driven businesses outperformed their peers.
Beyond that, employees and customers expect businesses to have a social impact.
“In today’s connected and interdependent world, employees increasingly demand that businesses and their suppliers take part in creating solutions to the world’s most pressing problems,” Miller says.
Millennials are especially vigilant about researching and weighing the values and cultures of companies they want to work for, she says, and Gen Z is following suit, looking for authentic commitments from companies to take action beyond profitability.
Meanwhile, 66% of consumers say they would switch from a product they typically buy to a product from a purpose-driven company, and 77% feel a stronger emotional bond to brands that communicate a clear purpose.
“When a company offers its unique superpowers to the world to address the needs of society, people notice,” Miller says. “In turn, businesses can create loyal employees, brand advocates in their customers, and thriving business partnerships.”
Maggie Z. Miller and Hannah Nokes are ForbesBooks co-authors of Magnify Your Impact: Powering Profit with Purpose. They also are co-founders of Magnify Impact, a company that helps business leaders create effective social impact strategies. Miller has developed social impact solutions with hundreds of company leaders globally. Previously, she founded an international nonprofit organization to provide microcredit loans for thousands of women in Peru. Nokes has led corporate social responsibility for global corporations and founded an impact collaborative of companies in Austin, Texas.