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10 reasons why socially responsible design is good for business

September 14, 2013 / By Maura McDonald
1. Energy Efficiency

Energy conservation and efficiency technologies are becoming more commonplace. Energy saving policies combined with employee awareness training can help companies generate an average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 48% and payback in three years. In the retail sector the average IRR from energy efficiency projects leaps to 82%. Few other investments get anywhere near these rates of return.

2. Global Warming

With the lack of a strong federal government climate legislation and the complexities of international negotiations, there will be renewed focus on corporate performance and plans for climate. Specifically energy efficiency, renewable energy, and adapting to the physical risks of climate change. We’ll see increased public pressure and accountability through efforts such as the Greenpeace campaign on Facebook and the recent report on banks and climate change.

3. Job Growth

The Millennials and future generations of workers bring strong social justice values with them into the workforce. At the same time, companies are under increasing pressure to “go green.” So despite the popular view that corporations are in a race to the bottom, 2014 will see more jobs created for socially responsible design professionals who want to change business from the inside out. Companies of all kinds are looking for people to help improve their environmental, social, and ethical performance throughout their value chains.

4. Sustainability

The Earth is at seven billion and growing. As more people compete for the Earth’s resources, the need to be more efficient will continue to increase. The imperative to stretch resources even further will make sustainability a central design principle for the winning corporations of the future.

5. Health

Health costs keep rising for both the individual and company health plans. Office furniture can contain toxic materials that affect the health of the factory workers involved in the production and end users. Finding better ways to produce products will lower health costs.

6. Employee Engagement

A Hewitt & Associates study looked at 230 workplaces with more than 100,000 employees and found that the more a company actively pursues worthy environmental and social efforts, the more engaged its employees are. The Society for Human Resources Management compared companies that have strong sustainability programs with companies that have poor ones and found that in the former morale was  55% better, business process were 43% more efficient, public image was 43% stronger, and employee loyalty was 38% better. Add to all that the fact that companies with highly engaged employees have three times the operating margin (Towers and Watson) and four times the earnings per share (Gallup) of companies with low engagement, and you’ve got a compelling business case for this trend to continue into 2012 and beyond.

7. Sustainability Shoppers

Consumers are increasingly tuned in to sustainability when making their buying decisions. “Green labels” have been around for a long time, but Wal-Mart’s sustainability index is taking it up a notch. Working alongside The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) to develop measurement and reporting systems for product sustainability. TSC is delivering research, metrics and reporting systems that help companies engage their suppliers and better understand the products they sell.

8. Transparency

Socially responsible design is responsible for more than 40% of a company’s reputation. PriceWaterhouseCoopers has found that 88% of millennials, or “echo boomers,” choose employers based on strong socially responsible design values, and 86% would consider leaving if the companies’ socially responsible design values no longer met their expectations.

9. Better Products

Ultimately,the goal is to make much better products that perform better against objective criteria as well as the more subjective experiential criteria. When that is done the result will be a generation of high-performance green products that are also beloved products. Beloved products resonate with people on a deeper level by connecting to place and culture and connecting people to the rhythms of nature in their daily lives.

10. Collaboration

Giving people the power to share, makes the world more open and connected. Collaboration encourages introspection of behavior and communication. These methods specifically aim to increase the success of teams as they engage in collaborative problem solving.

Made Good | September 26, 2013 6:30 PM

Made Good: An evening to celebrate design & its promise for social change, will feature three amazing design leaders and entrepreneurs for presentations, a panel discussion, and a Q&A session that will provide inspiration, practical advice, and conversation on bringing socially responsible design to your professional practice.

Our panelists are: Chicago’s Dawn Hancock of Firebelly Design and the Firebelly Foundation; AIGA Atlanta Fellow Doug Grimmett of Primal Screen and Good Thinking Atlanta; and Raleigh’s own Aly Khalifa of Gamil Design, founder of designbox and SPARKcon.

AIGA Raleigh will also be honoring Aly Khalifa at this event as the third-ever Fellow of AIGA Raleigh in recognition of his catalytic role in North Carolina’s design community!

As a way to keep the conversation going, we’re hosting four Made Good: Take Action events in October—all attendees to the evening event on the 26th will be able to attend a Take Action working session of their choice at no additional charge!

Made Good is a Design for Good event; Design for Good is AIGA’s national movement to ignite, accelerate and amplify design-driven social change.

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