Interesting blog post recently from Paul Klein of Impakt, a Toronto-based consultancy whose mission is to bring about "positive social change at the intersection of business and civil society" by helping corporations and nonprofits become social purpose leaders.
Paul writes that his firm recently developed a set of 10 principles to be examined before determining whether a potential client is a good fit. He recommends creating a similar set of principles "that can be used as a filter when considering which clients to take on. These principles need to reflect what matters most to your firm and should serve as an ongoing reminder of why you chose to work as a consultant."
As you might expect, several of Impakt's principles directly address the question of social impact. For example:
We will only work with clients who want to be social purpose leaders. (It is not our job to convince corporations to be socially responsible.)
We will only work for corporations that are committed to using their business resources to foster meaningful and measurable social change.
We will only work with corporations and NGOs that are committed to measuring and reporting on their performance.
You don't need to be a consultant to develop a list like this. Whether you're an agency, a B2C or B2B corporation, or a nonprofit, these are important things to consider when entering any kind of business relationship, be it with a supply-chain vendor or a marketing partner.
Remember that these suggestions are a starting point; every company has its own moral compass. For example, in looking at the clients on Impakt's roster, there are one or two we probably would not work with, based on what we know of the companies' histories and corporate business practices. (Impakt, one would assume, has made a determination that these corporations are sincere in their efforts to become more socially responsible, and it has staked its reputation on it. We respect that.)
Given our own commitment to social fairness, we've struggled over whether to take on certain clients, and we've certainly walked away from a few. We don't claim to be paragons of pure virtue; we can only hope to be consistent in our decision-making.
And that's the point of this exercise: Establish a clear set of principles that guide your business, and stick to them.
Ralph Allora is co-founder and marketing director of TRAY Creative, a Seattle-based creative agency specializing in brand identity, marketing campaigns and web solutions for forward-looking companies and nonprofits.
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