Social business: It’s about more than the bottom line

The social business model is emerging as a popular to do business. The model has positive effects for the community, and is at the core of Recycling Lives’ activities.

A social business is an organisation whose strategy is geared towards maximising value by engaging with all its stakeholders: staff, customers, service users, and, in fact, everyone who is affected in some way by what the company does. But how is this done?

Social businesses must serve people, considering them all as important. They must listen to people, both inside and outside the organisation, and respond to them. From this process, they learn and evolve, continuously improving.

What this means is that a social business recognises that it exists within the community, and is part of it. There is no separation between what happens within the business and what happens outside, in the sense that there is a constant two-way flow of information and ideas. In the true spirit of partnership, changes to the organisation can be influenced by customers and staff.

Of course, for this to happen, everyone has to be engaged. The traditional model, in which information is given out to people by senior management, is replaced by a system in which all stakeholders ask questions and receive answers. This way, with everybody’s input, the organisation drives forward.

The concept of value is also different in a social business. Generating value, in a traditional business, means increasing profit for shareholders. Social businesses still keep an eye on the bottom line, but also look at how their operations contribute to the economy and society through improving, for example, health and wellbeing or environmental sustainability.

Social business is good for organisations. By engaging everybody involved, efficiency increases. Staff perform better, which means that productivity rises. Communication improves, too, which means that collaborative work between teams becomes more commonplace. Motivation increases, and so does satisfaction.

External stakeholders also benefit: clients are more satisfied, meaning that they are more likely to be loyal; and, because the company’s message spreads as a result of better communication, the business grows.

All of the above elements apply to the Recycling Lives social business. Our commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility is enshrined in our company policies, and carried out by everyone in the organisation under the guidance of the Chief Executive, Steve Jackson OBE, for whom values and integrity are of the utmost importance:

“Being a social business, Recycling Lives delivers the best possible service to its customers. We listen to what they want and provide solutions that are innovative and environmentally sustainable. We also encourage the whole of the Recycling Lives workforce, and the people we support through the Recycling Lives social welfare charity, to contribute their ideas. All this helps us to drive the business forward, whilst always remaining true to our vision.”