Leadership & Management, Trends

Corporate Social Responsibility: What Cannabis Leaders Need to Know

| November 2, 2018

Small businesses rely on the support and patronage of their community. It’s important to nurture these relationships by giving back. By volunteering and working with local charities, your team can do its part to improve the lives of those around you. As a compliant cannabis operation, you must establish your dedication to the community to help members see your business legitimacy and commitment to bettering the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, not everyone is supportive of companies in the cannabis industry. Some of your neighbors might be less open to your organization’s involvement. But that shouldn’t deter you. Putting in the time and effort will help change opinions about your company’s place in the community and the value it can provide.

If you want to build a meaningful corporate social responsibility program, you need to understand which approaches work the best. Here are four tips to keep in mind to be more socially responsible:

Get employees involved

For many business leaders, corporate social responsibility means donating money. While this is an extremely important part of supporting nonprofits, there’s more to do. When employees are willing to volunteer, it allows your organization to work side-by-side with others in your community.

You might have to offer an incentive to get employees involved. One option is having designated volunteer time during the workday. You can designate one day each quarter for your employees to spend volunteering as a team or individually. Or, set aside 15-minute blocks throughout the day when employees can participate in letter writing campaigns. Even these small contributions can make a difference.

Incentives aren’t always enough. It’s not easy to get people to donate their time — especially if they don’t relate to the cause. You need to find charities that interest your team. Have a conversation with your employees about what you’re trying to achieve with your social responsibility program. Then ask for their input about what organizations they know of that align with those goals.

And don’t forget about volunteering for causes related to the cannabis industry. This is one issue guaranteed to interest all your employees so they’re more likely to participate. Look into organizations that are advocating for positive change to cannabis laws or that are educating consumers. If you’re not sure which groups are working with these causes, reach out to other cannabis business leaders. See what work they’re doing to get an idea on how your team can get involved.

Keep the ideas fresh

When you do the same exact job day after day, it becomes boring. The same happens with volunteering. Employees can quickly lose interest when you schedule the same events each month. By incorporating variety in your corporate responsibility program, your team will stay engaged.

Subscribe to the mailing lists of a variety of charities. Even if they aren’t your primary cause, they might plan a unique event that your company can participate in. Also, maintain an open dialogue with your employees. Find out what their friends and family do to volunteer. This will present new opportunities to try out.

Be realistic

Running a small business is a huge time commitment. While you want to make a big impact in your community, if you take on too much, you and your team will get burnt out. So instead of trying to plan a grand gala as your first event, start small.

When you’re talking to organizations, be honest and realistic about how much time you can volunteer. This will help them find volunteer work that fits your schedule.

And don’t think you need to take on the entire corporate social responsibility program by yourself. Look to your team for support. A good way to find the right people is to pay attention to who is the most excited during your team discussions. Think about who makes the most suggestions and steps up to take on responsibilities.

Once you have a few employees in mind, ask them if one would like to be the social responsibility team leader. Be clear on what that role means and what the expectations are. For example, will they be communicating with the charity or are they just in charge of getting their co-workers to sign-up? By getting on the same page early, both you and the team leader know what you need to do and there’s no wasted time or energy.

Be persistent

You might experience a lot of pushback while getting your social responsibility program off the ground. Some charities will flat out say they don’t want to partner with a cannabis company. Others might take forever to respond to your emails to confirm volunteering details.

Don’t get discouraged. Keep looking and you’ll find the right cause that fits with your company.

Reach out to other cannabis business leaders in your area. Find out what charities their companies work with and how they got their foot in the door. This can introduce you to non-profits you weren’t aware of.

Many companies get involved with charities and fundraising events because it’s good PR. But a great corporate responsibility program needs to be built on nurturing relationships in your community and providing a positive culture for your team. It shows what your organization stands for and that you want to give back to your neighbors. Cannabis business leaders face unique challenges when it comes to corporate responsibility, but by using these tips you and your employees can make a real difference.