By Michael Ray
The founder of Bloom Farms makes a powerful argument for ethical leadership by an industry actively seeking to change societal perceptions about what it is and what it does.
Why is corporate social responsibility important? The real question is “Why isn’t it important?”
This is a volatile moment in human history. The planet is changing and humans from across the world are suffering, even those in our own backyard. It’s up to those who can to give back. It’s up to you and me to create positive change.
Corporate social responsibility is a mechanism that finds a business abiding by the spirit of the law, ethics, and social norms. Behind that definition lies a philosophy I live by and that I hope you will take to heart. True corporate social responsibility is investing equally in the success of your business and the social good.
Think of TOMS. That business is the classic example of modern corporate social responsibility. For every pair of TOMS shoes sold, the company donates a pair to someone in need. Warby Parker and hundreds of lesser-known businesses are following in TOMS’s footsteps and are choosing to operate more consciously. “Think globally, act locally” is no longer just a buzzworthy phrase; it’s an anthem that businesses are living by.
TOMS, Warby Parker—these are household names, but even when they were the little guys they were doing their part. Establishing a one-for-one donation is one path to corporate social responsibility. If that doesn’t make sense for your business, the fact remains that no matter your market, there’s a way to weave in humanity’s best interest.
Think small. Every idea begins as nothing more than a tiny nugget of potential. As the great ideas begin to grow, they attract people, local backers. As a few of the great ideas become the best humanity has ever seen, they change the global landscape.
But innovation isn’t the only cause of change. The real catalyst is people. When businesses are socially responsible, they give people a metaphorical megaphone. Those early backers, those first customers are given a voice—one that might have never been heard were it not for one person with a great idea thinking globally and acting locally.
This is the power of socially responsible business. We as business owners have an opportunity to focus our financial success onto those who need it most. If you don’t feel motivated in your soul to give back—if you’ve lost all connection to your human condition—know that you have an obligation.
Think about this: A successful business doesn’t pop up out of thin air. There’s always a community of supporters behind success, and business owners have a responsibility to give back to the constituency that brought them up. Corporate social responsibility is partially about showing humility about your past and being hopefully ambitious about the future—humanity’s future. Once we’re aligned behind that philosophy, especially in America, we can begin to move forward.
This philosophy is especially important in our industry. The cannabis industry should be no different from any other, but the truth is there’s a stigma. “We’re parasites.” “We’re drug dealers.” “We’re ruining the youth of America.” You and I know that’s not true, and we can prove it’s untrue by doing more than what is required of us.
Corporate social responsibility is our ticket to changing perceptions about what we do.
Corporate social responsibility is our way of healing the planet, not just our patients. Corporate social responsibility can no longer be a second thought.
We’re at a very interesting point in the development of the cannabis industry. The wild west we’ve grown to love and loath is about to explode. For that reason, it’s never been more important that we, as members of the same industry and community, join together behind a common model that weaves philanthropy into the mission of our businesses.
This goes beyond our customers. This is about putting the green rush behind us and making sure that laws are passed in the right way. We must act responsibly to educate voters. We are about community, new jobs, and operating by the rules, and we need to make sure our country understands that about the cannabis industry.
It’s up to us to lead by example. If we don’t set a precedent, one that is socially responsible, the door is left wide open for the powers-that-be to typecast us as they choose.
So, what does corporate social responsibility mean to me? Why do I think it’s important? It’s the only option, really. The only way to run a modern, worthwhile business is to treat your success and the success of humanity equally.
For Bloom Farms, that means setting the bar high with our own version of the one-for-one model. For every product purchased, Bloom Farms donates a healthy meal to a food-insecure family or individual in need. With the help of the SF-Marin Food Bank, we will donate 1,000,000 meals in 365 days, and our mission starts with all of you.
What’s your mission?