Socially Responsible Business

For-profit companies that operate with dual objectives-making profit for their shareholders and contributing to a broader social good. Ben and Jerry's and Body Shop are examples of this type of hybrid.1

In socially responsible businesses the degree to which profit-making motives affect decisions and the amount of profit designated for social activities ranges. Socially responsible businesses are willing to forsake profit or make substantial financial contributions rather than distribute earnings privately, and frequently place social goals in their corporate mission statements. In some cases a socially responsible business may be considered a social enterprise when it is a registered for-profit subsidiary owned by a nonprofit organization (parent organization) created for the purpose of earning income for the parent organization as well as supporting a social cause.

For additional information, see the Business for Social Responsibility web site.


Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, an example of Socially Responsible Business

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), based in Vermont, is an example of socially responsible company. At GMCR every business decision is anchored in the company's core values concerning the environmental and the social impact of its business actions.

In 1989, GMCR established an environmental committee comprised of employees to explore the many ways its corporate environmental vision could be executed in its business practices. One outcome was the establishment of the Company's extensive on-site recycling program.

In 1992, GMCR launched its "Stewardship" line of coffees, which are grown and harvested using ecologically-sound sustainable farming techniques beneficial for the land and workers. GMCR employees travel to coffee farms in Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Guatemala, and Sumatra to evaluate the farm management and quality of the coffee. These visits help develop strong relationship with the growers and better profits.

In 1997, GMCR funded construction of a "beneficio and hydro" plant for 16 coffee-farming families in Peru. Then in 1998, the Company provided funding for a Coffee Kids micro-lending project in Huautsco, Veracruz, Mexico. This project has already grown to include over 270 participants.

In addition to these socially responsible business activities, GMCR contributes 7.5% of its pre-tax earnings, the highest amount allowable by law, to social and environmental organizations such as Conservation International.

  • 1. Young, Dennis, Social Enterprise in the United States, 2001.