As influencers, business leaders possess a rare ability—and perhaps even a responsibility—to impact society outside of their professional sphere positively. No business thrives without profitability. But as more organizations explore supporting social causes, they’re realizing that doing good and turning a profit can go hand-in-hand.
The Kirchner Group, a merchant financial advisory firm, is one of these organizations dedicated to “earning while returning,” with Blair Kirchner leading the cause. As the Managing Director and Co-Head of Impact Activities at the Kirchner Group, Blair proves that it’s possible to focus on profitability while also furthering the greater good.
“Lots of businesses believe that they have to trade off profit for social good. That’s unfortunate,” says Blair. “As companies go on to impact the world positively and promote values, it’ll become more clear that there doesn’t have to be a line. There doesn’t have to be division in those realities.”
After seeing the benefits both for companies and causes, Blair aims to prove that leaders within any industry can instigate social change. He also believes that real success isn’t about winning the game of Capitalism—it’s about perpetuating it for everyone.
Building a Business for People and Profit
“The Kirchner Group was founded on the fundamental belief that every business should improve themselves and improve the world,” says Blair, whose father Bud Kirchner started the company in 1985. Though some brands are today known for their social programs, back then, businesses rarely tied charity to their central mission. He continues, “We believe that business is a powerful vehicle for societal change. It has a responsibility as such.”
Organizations like TOMS, Warby Parker, and Bombas should be lauded for their inspiring give-back programs. But for companies without products or consumer goods, or smaller enterprises with tight margins, it can be tough to find a clear path forward. That’s why Blair’s been studying and devising strategies for any business to start supporting social causes.
At the Kirchner Group, the leadership team created the Virtuous Circle—their guiding principle about earning, returning, and giving back. With the principle at the forefront of their company’s mission, the team has launched several initiatives. One of these is the Kirchner Food Fellowship, which uses low-cost, high-impact investment strategies to provide resources to areas in need.
The program serves to increase food security in places like Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States. It also offers scholarships to entrepreneurial student leaders interested in learning how smart capital allocation and technology can solve the world’s most critical problems. “They have an incredible ability to become effective capital allocators in an academic year, which many people said was impossible,” says Blair. “We’re very proud of the program.”
Blair and his team have also worked with innovative social enterprises, including Lucky Iron Fish, a cost-effective tool to increase iron intake, Kuli Kuli, a superfood sourced from small farms in Africa and Central America, and Tomato Jos, a sustainable tomato farming initiative in Nigeria.
These businesses might be small, but by seeing how they transform people’s lives, the Kirchner Group can’t imagine more valuable partnerships.
Small Ways to Give Back Big
Blair and his team spent decades creating a business that gives back. But initiatives like his aren’t the only way to spur change. Many organizations simply don’t have the resources to start scholarships or donate products—and that’s okay.
“You don’t have to start a foundation or give your profits away to good causes,” says Blair. “It can mean growing a sustainable business that creates jobs, helps the economy, builds the community, and forms relationships that are so important today.”
Ask employees (including the leadership team) to offer their time to a common cause or strengthening bonds with charitable networks within their community. My own company gives every team member an annual day off to volunteer for a cause of their choosing. It’s a simple way to serve and prove that your company’s core values aren’t just words—they’re actions.
And don’t forget to look within your organization. Business leaders can foster a culture of care within the workplace that serves as a safe haven within an increasingly complex society. In a stressful world, “That proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back is closer than ever,” says Blair. “Your ability to connect while building trust and openness is so important for an organization, employees, and its leaders.”
By creating a healthy, thriving work culture, leaders can start ripples that positively affect your employees and their families, friends, and community. “We are all one,” says Blair. “We need to work together towards that common cause and address some of the incredible challenges that we’re facing.”
This article is provided by Forbes