Starting with Purpose

You asked and we answered!

Through our work supporting companies and foundations to drive social impact locally and globally, we at Silicon Valley Community Foundation heard startups asking a reoccurring question: How can we harness our energy and vision and turn it into social good?
Our answer is simple: Start with purpose.
Startups are continually changing what is possible. They disrupt norms, create new ways of solving problems and help us be more productive and connected to each other. The startups that inspire us the most also have a secret sauce that transcends a quest for profit: They have purpose. 
Purpose is incredibly powerful. Purpose-oriented workers are more likely to be leaders, to stay at their companies and to find meaning in their work1.  Eighty-seven percent of millennials say they believe their company’s success should be measured on more than financial performance2.   
To translate a company’s purpose into social responsibility practices, we’ve compiled six strategies startups can consider. These strategies are based on experiences and insights of startups and industry leaders.  
Cultivate a Culture Committed to Social Change 
As startups have multiplied and flourished, so have stories of “startup culture,” in which people have flexible hours, unlimited free snacks and catered lunches, permission to bring their dogs to work, and open-office seating side-by-side with their CEO. While this vision has become something of a stereotype, the effort many startups put into cultivating a strong culture is substantial – and when a culture includes empathy and awareness of social impacts, it can be an extremely powerful tool for building a commitment to social responsibility. 
Connect with Local Communities 
An initial step in creating a social responsibility strategy can be as simple as being a good neighbor. Social responsibility does not have to mean attempting to solve national challenges or donating millions of dollars. It can mean rallying your employees to support local businesses or opening your doors to the community. 
Donate or Discount Products or Services to Drive Social Change 
Many businesses have products and services that can help support their nonprofit partners just as effectively as cash donations can – and the products and services may even help them to do their work better.
Lay the Groundwork for a Sustainable Supply Chain
Increasingly, interested consumers are asking purchasing questions like these: Where does this product come from? What environmental burden results from the manufacture of this product? Under what working conditions was this product developed? Knowing the business practices of your partners and suppliers – and deciding how to influence them – is an important consideration for your social responsibility strategy. 
Translate Diversity Values into Practice
While diversity is part of social responsibility, to some this could imply that it is optional, when in fact it is a business imperative and necessary core value. We include it here for two reasons: The startup struggle for diverse talent has been widely publicized and scrutinized; and many of the startups we spoke to are working to balance competition for talent and diversity, both internally and in their communities.  As you work to develop or implement a diversity strategy, consider how to ensure diversity in your leadership, make diversity a priority and working with your community to build a pipeline of talent.
Make a Public and Formal Commitment to Social Responsibility  
While some companies bake a social commitment directly into their mission (think of TOMS’ one-for-one model), others layer on more formal public commitments or adhere to business structures to build momentum behind their social impact strategies. Consider a formal commitment such as Pledge 1% or certification as a B Corp to direct your social responsibility program.
For more details on these strategies, please see the full report
Startups looking for guidance in creating a social responsibility plan – to give back to the community, engage employees in meaningful causes, instill responsible business practices in operations, and more – are encouraged to work with SVCF’s team of social responsibility experts. For more information on how SVCF can assist your company, please contact