Is it possible to do well (financially) and do good (ethically)?

If social responsibility isn’t on your radar, this is for you.

If your company is spending on a CSR policy you don’t understand, this is for you.

If you’d rather focus on heads in beds, this is for you.

We started off with the recycling bin and moved to recycling paper in printers and encouraging employees to bring their own coffee cups to work. We then organized small groups of employees to participate in community events — an AIDS walk, beach cleanup or food drive. Maybe the following year participation increased, and we started raising funds to buy supplies for a local orphanage.  

I think it’s interesting. Back when recycling bins and food drives started, it was because certain individuals felt a genuine need to do good. It was a time before CSR policies and greenwashing, perhaps driven by cost or social and environmental consciousness. And it was tolerable because it was small scale and had minor impacts on the business. But while personal interest evolved into group interest, what was an extracurricular event back then is, in many ways, still just that — extracurricular.  

Why? A hotel’s business activity isn’t built on CSR. It’s built on service, hospitality and putting heads in beds. And simply put, CSR isn’t a revenue-generating activity. But does that mean it shouldn’t be our personal responsibility to find ways to do well AND do good? Do most people think they’re mutually exclusive? How do we really get to the point where our sense or want of social responsibility (corporate AND personal) becomes truly ingrained in our ethos, mission statement, business strategy, life strategy and DNA without feeling there’s a sacrifice on some other end? How can we use our influence in the industry to support change that matters?

I recently met an individual who told me about a movement for “tri-sector athletes” — a belief that the best leaders and CEOs will have the knowledge and understanding of the private, public and non-profit sectors. I’m not sure how you or your company can join this movement. Perhaps you can support fair-trade merchandise, hire locally, influence your governments, support policy, reduce waste or bring your own bag to the grocery. But if you could take a moment to think about why it might be important to do good and not just do well, it’s a start.