The challenges of social responsibility and whether we can afford it

While the residents of Maleny in Queensland continue to protest against Woolworths moving into their town and Tasmanian farmers continue their tractor trek to Canberra protesting the McDonalds decision which is expected to see half their potato requirements imported, matters of local interest versus globalisation continue to get media coverage.

It is easy to see the reports and get into a lather about the decisions by the suits in their head offices to move in on a small town or to cut the contracts with Australian farmers. It is another thing altogether to respond personally. By respond, I mean looking at each purchase and making sure it is in the best interests of Australia environmentally, culturally and economically. That is an extremely hard road to travel.

On the one hand I write here often about the importance of small business for carrying forward the culture of a town or country, our role in living and employing locally, our focus on eschewing the one size fits all clone mentality. On the other hand, when I consider the day to day decisions of this and other small businesses, I soon see that I am not doing enough in practicing what I preach.

This is our social responsibility. To be true to ourselves not only in calling for others to treat our independently owned small businesses in a certain way but to operate ourselves in that way in every decision we take. This means the stock we purchase, our employment policies, recycling and community support.

It is easy to present publicly as socially responsible. It is another thing altogether to live that way through every decision.

We’re going to experiment here and appoint someone within our company to consider our social responsibility. They will review each area of our business and recommend what we can do to become a better Australian citizen. We’ll then cost this and see how sustainable taking that approach is.

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