Should companies demonstrate a sense of social responsibility? Etsy’s CEO thinks they should. In an essay published on LinkedIn, Chad Dickerson explained he was asked by the site’s editors to answer the question, “What is the one big idea that will shape the next year?”
“Our answer,” he wrote, “is based in the simple fact that people want and expect a greater level of personal connection and demonstrated sense of social responsibility from the companies they support.”
People are demanding that companies act ethically and responsibly and they are quick to call companies out when they don’t, he said. “The mindset that business should have a social purpose isn’t a radical new concept. It was the norm in the era before mass commerce, when most companies were local and business leaders had a vested interest in helping their communities flourish. Local bankers wanted the shopkeepers they lent to to prosper; they understood the need to literally invest in the community for the benefit of all. Take that mindset to the global, connected world, marry it to the expectations of millennials, and soon every business will need to integrate social impact into what it does day to day.”
Dickerson also talked about the desire for a genuine personal connection. “After all, the Internet is made up of individuals who want to connect. And the easier it is to connect, the more people crave meaningful contact, a backlash against instant but soulless gratification provided by a faceless corporate entity that you can’t interact with.”
And of course the CEO brought it back to Etsy:
The principle that companies should have a social purpose that is inherent to their business lies at the heart of Etsy, which enables people around the world to connect offline and online to make, sell and buy unique goods. We help creative entrepreneurs start, scale and enjoy their businesses, and we connect them to buyers who care about where they spend their money.
Etsy is a global platform, but the proceeds from these transactions flow locally, largely going back to the communities where our sellers live. We’ve made it easier for sellers to grow responsibly, with an application and approval process we put in place a year ago that helps makers partner with local manufacturers that share their values.
Some might wonder if such ideas are scalable, especially in light of eBay’s history. If Etsy goes public, will it be able to keep its promise of social responsibility while satisfying shareholders?
“In 2015, we’re going to see more consumers align their hearts with their dollars,” Dickerson wrote.