Starting Your Socially Responsible Business
Scott D. Clary | Mental Models, Performance, Business & Entrepreneurship
Here is my weekly email with some insights and ideas pulled from conversations I had on my podcast as well as some other tools and resources you may find useful.
🍄 Starting Your Socially Responsible Business
Have you ever heard the phrase, “people don’t buy products; they buy feelings”? The future of business is all about giving customers what they want – not just a product or service, but a feeling that they are doing something good for the world. More and more, consumers are in search of businesses that can demonstrate their social responsibility.
And let's face it – the state of the world in 2022 certainly calls for a little TLC from the business community. The environment is suffering, the economy is struggling, and social inequality is on the rise.
It's not all doom and gloom, however; in fact, there are some businesses already beginning to make headway in the social responsibility arena. I interviewed the CEO and founder of one such business on how to get started as a socially responsible organization.
Paul Shapiro of The Better Meat Co.
In one of my most recent episodes of the Success Story Podcast, I had the privilege of speaking with Paul Shapiro, co-founder and CEO of The Better Meat Co.
Here's a brief bio on Paul:
- He’s the author of the national bestseller Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World,
- He is CEO of The Better Meat Co., a socially responsible and cruelty-free animal-free meat company,
- He’s a four-time TEDx speaker, and host of the Business for Good Podcast,
- And if that wasn’t enough, he has published articles in the Washington Post, Scientific American, FORTUNE, and more.
Paul grew up with a love of animals, and he was always confronted by the ethical dilemma of meat consumption.
After twenty years of working in the nonprofit space as a lobbyist and advocate for animals, he became increasingly interested in the role that food technology could play in helping to solve some of the world's most pressing problems, like climate change and global hunger.
This is what (eventually) led him to start The Better Meat Co., a company that creates delicious, healthy, and humane meat alternatives that are better for both people and the planet.
Note: There's a lot more to his story than this brief overview, so if you're interested in hearing more about Paul, I'd highly recommend listening to his Success Story Podcast episode here.
Why do we need socially responsible businesses in 2022?
Paul’s company, The Better Meat Co., is an excellent example of a business that is both socially and environmentally responsible.
Using the power of fermentation and harnessing the nutrients offered by mycoprotein, The Better Meat Co. is able to create a healthy, sustainable, and ethical product that actually tastes like meat. In doing so, Paul's mission is to lighten the burden that animal agriculture places on the environment, while also helping to improve the treatment of animals.
With an increase in awareness of the detrimental issues our planet is facing, it’s never been more important for businesses to consider their social responsibility. Paul gave a compelling reason as to why 2022 is the year for businesses to step up and become more socially responsible.
"Think about the fact that there's nearly 8 billion of us walking around on the planet today, and we're going to have another 2 billion added to the planet [in the next 30 years].
We're not going to be farming the moon, we're not going to be farming Mars; we have one planet to farm, right? That's Earth, and it's not getting any bigger."
Earth is finite, and as such, we are all responsible for looking after its resources. But businesses don’t have to focus on animal agriculture, like The Better Meat Co. – there are so many more global issues needing our attention, such as:
- Climate change and its impact on the environment,
- Sourcing sustainable materials and products,
- The ethical treatment of employees,
- Community engagement and giving back,
- And the list goes on.
Typically, businesses hold more economic and social influence than individuals. By stepping into a more socially responsible role as a business, you can make an enormous impact on issues affecting your local space, and even national or international issues.
Social responsibility from a business perspective
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) isn't just about doing the right thing. It's also an excellent strategy from a business point of view, which is why the corporate world has begun to see a noticeable shift toward the Decade of Purpose.
In the 2000s, business leaders were primarily focused on connection; in the 2010s, convenience; and now in the 2020s, they're focused on how to make a positive impact on society.
This is partially due to the emergence of more sustainably-minded people stepping into leadership roles in the past decade – but the same can't be true for all businesses, so why the sudden change?
Simply put, purpose-driven businesses are more successful. Take a look at these telling facts and figures:
- According to Cone Communications and Echo Research, 90% of shoppers globally would switch to socially responsible brands, and 76% of consumers would decline doing business with an unethical brand
- Nielsen IQ reports that 55% of consumers will pay extra for products that contribute to a good cause
- 61% of investors favor companies that can demonstrate their corporate social responsibility efforts, according to Aflac
Not only that, but CSR is becoming almost essential for sourcing and securing top talent. Millennials in particular are drawn to purpose-driven businesses, and many will turn down a job offer from a company that doesn’t have a social conscience.
According to the Cone Communications 2016 study on Millennial Employment Engagement:
- 64% of millennials take CSR into serious consideration when deciding where to work, and will not take a job unless the company demonstrates strong CSR values
- 83% will be more loyal to their company if it helps them to take on more social responsibility as part of their role (as compared to the 70% U.S. average)
- 88% find their jobs more fulfilling if they are able to contribute to alleviating social and environmental issues
Clearly, consumers and employees alike are looking for businesses with heart. So what does it take to start your own socially responsible business? Let’s turn back to Paul Shapiro of The Better Meat Co. for some expert advice on how he began his ethically responsible business.
Starting your purpose-driven and socially responsible business
When Paul began putting his vision into action, he wasn’t an expert in the field by any means. He’d written books about the concept of technology’s role in sustainable food production, but he was starting a business, not just preaching about the topic.
Still, The Better Meat Co. ended up a resounding success – so how did he do it? Let's see what Paul had to say, and what we can observe from his inspirational success.
First, start with a vision
You can't hope to achieve anything if you don't have a clear idea of what it is you're working for. Paul's vision for The Better Meat Co. was to create meat products that were tasty for people, yet caused no harm to animals, the environment, or society. There was a clear vision and purpose behind the company, and it was communicated effectively to both employees and customers.
"I had a decision to make," Paul said in his interview. "I had just written this book, and was going on tour to talk about great entrepreneurs who I thought would end up saving the world. And so I thought, I could continue to simply write about the people who I thought were going to solve this problem, or I could become one of them myself. And I chose the latter path."
Clearly, Paul had a vision – and you need one too, if you want to start a socially responsible business. What's your vision? What's the problem you're trying to solve? How can your business make a positive impact on the world?
Surround yourself with the right people
Although Paul was clearly a go-getter, he didn't have entrepreneurial experience in the beginning of his career as a CEO. However, he found a clever way to remedy this; he surrounded himself with people who had the knowledge he needed.
Paul researched other meat alternative companies in order to learn more about fermentation and fungi-based mycoprotein – but the majority of people he surrounded himself with, as it turns out, weren't experts in his field at all. They were motivated individuals who shared his same passion for making change.
"If you read [my book] Clean Meat, one of the things you notice is that many of the people who I talk about in the book are not people who are seasoned entrepreneurs, or people who have PhDs. Many of the entrepreneurs are people who just wanted to make a difference."
When you're starting your own socially responsible business, follow Paul's lead and find like-minded individuals who share your same values and goals. This will help you to create a supportive community – one that can offer advice, mentorship, and resources when needed.
As Jim Rohn once famously said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." If you want to start a successful, purpose-driven business, then it's important to surround yourself with people who will reaffirm your vision and help you achieve your goals.
Read up on case studies and get inspired
When you are first starting out on your mission to build a socially responsible business, you're full of energy, ideas, and adrenaline.
It can be tempting to barge on ahead without taking the time to do your research and learn from those who have come before you. Remember, though, that you can gain a lot from studying the successes (and failures) of others.
In his interview, Paul spoke about a highly successful startup that inspired him at the beginning of his journey: Perfect Day. Perfect Day creates dairy milk without the need for cows, using yeast to ferment sugars from plants. The company's products hit shelves in 2018, and they're already being stocked in major grocery stores like Kroger and Safeway.
Looking into other businesses that have found success with a social conscience gave Paul the push he needed to start his own venture.
"Those stories about mere mortals who were making this happen were inspirational to me, because I thought, 'hey, if these guys can do it, maybe I can, too'. And they have done a phenomenal job running their company, and I hope to have a fraction of the success that they're having."
If you are someone who resists against learning from others, this is likely a difficult concept to grasp. Perhaps you are driven to do everything on your own merit, or you may even harbor competitive feelings toward other businesses with a social conscience.
However, it's important to remember that you can learn a lot from those who have gone before you. Soak up their successes, failures, and lessons learned to help make your own journey smoother.
Conduct industry research
You're feeling inspired, and you've surrounded yourself with like-minded individuals – so where do you go from here? This is where we get into the nuts and bolts of launching your socially responsible business, starting with industry research.
Industry research is a little different to market research in that you're looking to answer the following questions:
- What are the current industry trends?
- Who are the key players in the industry?
- What are the major challenges and opportunities facing the industry?
Rather than looking at the figures for your specific product or service, you're looking at the trends in the industry as a whole and trying to work out how your business can fit into that.
For example: Paul's industry is one that has evolved almost exponentially in the last few years. The Better Meat Co was born out of a realization that the traditional meat industry was broken, and that there was a huge opportunity to create a more sustainable, ethical, and profitable business model.
But there was more industry research to be done within that specific niche.
"When you go back about five or so years ago, you get companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat who are trying to make products for diehard carnivores; something that really fully mimics the meat experience,” Paul explained.
“So all of a sudden, you have this huge universe of omnivores who are happy to eat plant based every once in a while, especially if it still tastes the same as meat. And those companies really paved a new pathway."
Like Paul, your industry will have an entire landscape that you need to understand before starting your socially responsible business. Who are the major players? What challenges do they face? What new technologies or ideas are emerging in the space?
By understanding the industry as a whole, you can start to see how your business can make a difference.
Final thoughts: launching a business that makes a difference
There are obviously many more steps you'll need to take in order to launch a successful business, but Paul Shapiro's experience and advice provide a great starting point for those looking to make a difference with their business. Let's run through a quick recap of what we've learned:
First, it's important to have a clear idea of what you want your business to achieve and how it will make a difference in the world. This can help inform all other aspects of your business, from branding to marketing to operations.
Once you have that vision in place, it's important to surround yourself with people who share your values and can help you turn that vision into a reality.
Next, learn from others who have started similar businesses and find out what worked (and what didn't) for them.
And finally, conduct a thorough analysis of the industry you want to enter in terms of emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges.
With social responsibility, keep in mind that it's not just the startups who can make a difference. Established businesses can also make a big impact by making small tweaks to their operations, and there are plenty of resources and organizations that can help you get started.
If you're feeling inspired to start your own socially responsible business, I hope this article has given you some valuable insights to help you get started. And remember – my interview with Paul Shapiro is live on my YouTube channel, so be sure to check it out for more tips on how to make your business a force for good.
💻 Tool Of The Week: RemoteOK
Remote work is becoming the norm, and post pandemic, we’ve come to realize that you can be as efficient (if not more ) working remote than if you’re forced to work in a physical office.
That being said, I realize that many job resources may allow you to filter through remote positions, however of them have not been set to allow you to search and apply easily to remote jobs.
This is where RemoteOK shines.
RemoteOK is the preeminent remote job board. So, if you are looking for a career change, check it out and find your perfect position by filtering through roles, responsibilities, salary ranges, and a variety of other filters (all remote).
🎧 Things You Should Listen To: Paul Shapiro (@paulshapiro1), CEO & Co-Founder Of The Better Meat Co.
Paul Shapiro is the author of the national bestseller Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World (published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books in 2018). He's also the CEO of The Better Meat Co., a four-time TEDx speaker, the host of the Business for Good Podcast, and a long-time leader in food sustainability.
The company Paul co-founded and runs, The Better Meat Co., uses fermentation to turn microbes into meat within hours, creating a far more sustainable and humane method of satisfying our “meat tooth” than raising and slaughtering animals for food.
He's been interviewed by hundreds of news outlets from CNN to StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson as an authority on food and agriculture sustainability. He’s also published hundreds of articles in publications ranging from daily newspapers like the Washington Post to pop-sci publications like Scientific American to magazines like FORTUNE to academic journals.
Here’s what we spoke about on the last episode of the Success Story Podcast…
- The Evolution Of The Meat-Alternatives Industry.
- Which One Is The Healthiest? Analogue Or Natural Meat?
- Can Analogue Meat Replace Natural Meat?
- Advice For Emerging Entrepreneurs.
- The Thinking Process Behind The Creation Of The Better Meat Co.
📚 Things You Should Read: The Myth of Excellence
Ex•cel•lence (n.) 1. The clearly false and destructive theory that a company ought to be great at everything it does. 2. A mistaken goal in which the predictable outcome is that the company ends up world-class at nothing—not well-differentiated and therefore not thought of by consumers at the moment of need.
The Myth of Excellence walks through the detriment of trying to be the best at everything. This is a problem I’ve seen with many entrepreneurs (and companies).
Across the broad spectrum of things you’re trying to do properly, when building a company, too many founders fall victim to the mindset that they need to do everything perfectly, which is not practical, smart or effective. The book breaks down how to focus on certain key aspects of your business that you can be world-class at, and double down on so that other things which you’re not an expert at, don’t matter as much.
Basically this is a well researched, startup / business focused playbook for how to effectively execute the 80/20 rule in your company.
💡 Other Thoughts
1. On Success
Success has a way of revealing peoples true natures--in one way or another.
2. On Comparison
Comparing yourself to others is a great way to make sure that you don’t end up being any better than them.
3. On Conversations
Not every conversation has to be a negotiation. Not every negotiation has to be an argument. Not every argument has to result in a grudge.
4. On Being Normal
Being normal is overrated.
Success Story Podcast
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