Reported by Emily Gray Salada
Last month, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin hosted its 8th Annual Business for Good Summit.
Gathered in a large ballroom in the center of campus, representatives from companies like Southwest Airlines, Dell, MillerCoors, and AMD; research institutions as Brookings Institution; city government; investment firms like Notley Fund; and startups like Treehouse and Watershed Materials mixed with entrepreneurs, students, and interested parties from the Austin business community all with one common interest: exploring the paths that bridge the gap between business and social impact.
While the lessons and advice offered were numerous, there were some themes that rose to the top and recurred throughout. Here are the TOP 10 TAKEAWAYS for aspiring business-for-good-doers:
- Business for good is not easy. You need to have a thick skin and learn to be adaptable, humble, creative, passionate, among other key skills.
- You will face opposition. Though the number of companies who support and lead with corporate social responsibility is growing, this will not always be the case with your company and you may have to work against the prevailing culture.
- Things will go wrong. You will fail many, many times. But it's not impossible.
- There is no shortage of opportunity, but there is a shortage of resources. With environmental sustainability and positive social impact, there is endless work to be done. Don't let it overwhelm you.
- Build partnerships across the aisle. Work not only with those in your sector but also with those who you might not initially expect to support your efforts. If you meet people where they are, you might be surprised to learn who wants to help.
- Though sustainability may be in just your title, it is everyone's role. You'll need to get buy-in from others and their participation in order to achiever you goals.
- Always think with a business mind. You or your company may be mission-driven, but you always need to frame things in terms of consumer needs, competitive advantage, and potential revenue/savings.
- It will take time. The work you do will be slow and frustrating. But when you see the change, there's nothing more rewarding.
- This kind of work is a privilege. At the end of the day, being able to combine business with social good is really awesome and rewarding.
- Lead from where you stand. Look at what you have and start there.
In short, doing "business for good" is something you have to put the effort in to make work. It's something you have to believe in, and it's not for everyone.
But for those who have the passion, the drive, and the will, they'll have one of the most privileged and rewarding livelihoods on the planet. And they'll be making sure others do too.