JUSTICE PERSPECTIVES- How Can Convenience Stores be Good Citizens?
By Bob Chrismas
Historically the idea of good corporate citizenship and financial responsibility were mutually exclusive. Making money for the company often meant you could not be a good citizen. In this article, I argue that in the modern environment, this has changed. In the contemporary context, being a good citizen is, in fact, good business.
The concept of corporations was imported from Europe and was first employed by the railroads. These massive projects required more money than a few wealthy investors could put up. Corporations allow many people to invest, and they protect investors from liability. A corporation is a legal person, at law. As such, the individual shareholders cannot be sued, for instance, if the corporation pollutes the environment. It created an ethical dilemma for executive directors obligated by law to do whatever makes money for the corporation, even if it is hurting the community or polluting the environment. You cannot put a corporation in prison for damaging the environment. The only recourse for the courts would be fines, which may not hurt enough to change corporate practices.
However, the collective conscience has evolved over recent decades. Consumers now care more about how the businesses they support hire and treat their employees. Whether they deliberately work to protect the environment and help the communities they operate in. Businesses now stand to gain from being good global citizens. That means taking an interest in how they interact with the world. It means being mindful of making positive impacts in the community. Good corporate citizenship seeks to be socially responsible. On top of standard ethical and legal practices, most successful businesses now demonstrate a strong balance between the needs of the shareholders and the community and environment.
Shareholders increasingly demand these values, thus shrinking the dichotomy between corporate profit and being a good citizen. Investors are seeking socially responsible environmental, social, and governance practices. Profit is no longer mutually exclusive to social responsibility. Research has shown that over 85 per cent of customers consider corporate social responsibility in their buying decisions. Over 90 per cent have said they are likely to choose brands that are associated with good causes.
Some of the benefits of good citizenship include improved reputation and brand recognition, better sales and reduced costs, and customer and employee loyalty. Being a good citizen can consist of almost any aspect of your firm’s operation, including where you locate your stores and offices, what products you sell, how you treat your employees and how the company interacts with customers and the community. The convenience and carwash industry seems full of opportunities to be good citizens. I know I would drive an extra couple of blocks to use a carwash that advertises that they use environmentally friendly detergents. I believe a great deal of mileage could be gotten highlighting how your stores care about newcomer opportunities, employment and economic development within communities.
At this time in history, consumers genuinely care about ethical product sources that are not produced through exploited children off-shore or at the expense of our ozone layer. In this unprecedented Corona Virus era, customers and employees care about how companies are working to ease the burden of lay-offs and altered operations. Retailers can display good citizenship in many ways. They can offer organic and ethically sourced products, discontinue socially irresponsible ones, and choose regional and smaller suppliers. Businesses can take care of employees by considering how they can support their health care needs or reduce their financial burdens. Many employees in 2021 are said to be increasing credit debt as a result of Covid related downsizing, reduced hours and lay-offs. Could your company offer small loans to help employees avoid high-interest credit debts? Many companies are offering wage continuity, at least for the first weeks of Covid related lay-offs.
People believe their company is a good corporate citizen when they see management making decisions that sacrifice short-term profitability for the sake of long-term customer and employee loyalty. The long game is where corporate executives should have their goals set, regardless of their market niche. Without loyal customers and employees, what do we have? Being a good corporate citizen is the way to achieve that.
Bob Chrismas, Ph.D., is an author, scholar, consultant, passionate speaker and social justice advocate police professional with internationally recognized expertise in community engagement and crime prevention. An advocate for social reform, he has written and speaks extensively on innovative trends in policing, community partnership and governance. Visit Bob at BChrismas.com.