Community. Nick talked us through registering as a B Corp in the UK (for-profit companies that are committed to social good) and explained how his new platform, Neighbourly, is connecting brands and consumers on a community level for social good and is now a one-stop destination for giving.
WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY?
Since the last recession, we’ve seen the emergence of the ‘coping class’ – the 16 million adults across the UK who have less than £100 in savings. Increasingly, society is divided on issues of inequality, welfare and employment. There is a massive threat to the future of jobs for young people and technology has left many communities feeling isolated and left behind. For many people, the responsibility (and blame) for this lies with businesses.
The reality of most community projects is that of overgrown playgrounds and disused allotments. These projects are often reliant on dwindling social grants. There has been a seismic breakdown in trust between businesses and society, which has raised valid questions about whether companies are operating in a socially responsible way. In fact, 95% of people said they wouldn’t care if the majority of the world’s brands ceased to exist tomorrow.
WHAT'S HE DOING ABOUT IT?
He’s created an app that allows businesses and the community to work together on issues they care about. It’s a place for activating ideas and for giving – whether that’s money, surplus food, or simply volunteering. The thinking is this: everyone cares about their future wellbeing, whether they are a business or an individual. As we move towards a purpose economy, businesses must stand for something more than profit in order to survive.
Businesses will always be self-serving. They exist to make profit, but if they are also motivated to make positive changes for whatever reason then that is a good thing. Giving back to local causes benefits them in a multitude of ways – from attracting future talent and helping employees feel part of the community, to humanising the brand in the eyes of the public and giving them the chance to meet the people behind these large global companies.
Who’s involved so far? Businesses including Heineken, Marks and Spencer and Unilever are already supporting community projects through the app. As well as directly contributing, their involvement also helps the projects through global publicity and motivating people to get involved. There have already been some major success stories. M&S has helped get over 400 tonnes of surplus food to people in need across the UK – over half a million meals.
The era of corporate social responsibility being limited to ticking a few boxes and the occasional case study is over. With companies like Ben and Jerry’s running campaigns to raise awareness of climate change, ‘purpose’ is now mainstream. People now expect authenticity and a valid contribution as a given. Many businesses are already leading the way and being proactive about this, although much of the action is still happening behind the scenes.
As a social platform that connects local projects with people and companies who want to help, Neighbourly aims to close the gap that exists between corporate reputation and marketing to rebuild the trust. They are already sparking a movement that helps people and businesses to share these stories, get inspired to help others and bring communities closer together.
That’s where B Corps come in. These are for-profit businesses that sign up for a rigorous application process that assesses their legal commitment to social values and environmental responsibility alongside traditional business key performance indicators. It’s not an easy process. There are around 1,800 B Corps in the world – and Neighbourly is one of them.
NEXT STEPS …
Over the past two and a half years, Neighbourly has hosted 4,300 projects. People who need help no longer have to wait for companies to come along and help them – companies are now saying what they want to achieve and asking the community for support. How do you reach a million people and inspire them to take action? You create a page with Neighbourly.
Rip It Up, Start Again
Lulu Laidlaw-Smith presents Rip It Up, Start Again - a series of events showcasing the best innovative start-ups.