Some call it social responsibility. It is the duty and obligation of a business to everyone who stands to gain through that business. In other words, every business, large or small, has a responsibility toward every person involved with that business. If you are a business owner, as I am (co-founder of character-in-action.com), you have responsibilities.
You are responsible to shareholders. You are obligated to operate your business to the best of your ability, for their sakes. You must do your utmost to give every shareholder a good return on investment. If you are the only shareholder, you owe it to yourself to give every ounce of your ability to making your business succeed.
You are responsible to employees, too, if you have them. You have a responsibility to give every employee, at the least, a reasonable salary. You have a responsibility to provide good working conditions, including the way you speak to those employees, and the load you lay on them. You are obligated to do these things to the best of your ability.
You are responsible to suppliers. In the case of Character-in-Action®, that includes our printers, postal service, Internet service provider, etc. Your suppliers may be different, but you have a responsibility to give suppliers timely payment and civil treatment, as well as regular business from you. A responsible business owner will not use three suppliers for the same product or service, changing back and forth from one to another. Difficulties may arise with your suppliers from time to time, but such difficulties must be met responsibly.
You are responsible to your customers. You have a responsibility to keep your prices fair. You have a responsibility to make your product safe and be sure that, to the best of your ability, it fulfills the need that you say it will fulfill. You have a responsibility to provide service to your customers, and establish a good relationship.
You are responsible to your local community. You have a responsibility to provide jobs locally as your business grows and you are able. You have a responsibility to keep your business from harming the community in any way, or disrupting community life.
You are responsible to the local, state, and federal governments. You have a responsibility to obey the laws in operating your business. You have a responsibility to pay the taxes owed by your business.
All of that – and more – presents a big challenge for those of us who are business owners. A business owner’s responsibility toward one group can conflict with responsibility toward another. If, for example, Character-in-Action® seeks to fulfill its responsibility to customers by keeping prices fair, it increases the difficulty of fulfilling its responsibility to give every shareholder a good return on investment. We have chosen to err in favor of our obligation to the customer, but some choose the opposite side of the choice.
At the end of the day, whatever our business, we must seek to fulfill our responsibility to every segment of society that is in any way interactive in that businesses – and we must seek to fulfill it as well as we can.