Should a business owner seek to create a positive social and environmental impact in the way they operate their business? It's a complicated question, and the answer depends on a number of factors, such as the nature of the business and its particular goals, not to mention the views of its leadership team, employees and customers.

Whether you call it corporate social responsibility (CSR), being a green business or having a community-orientation, doing business in a way that creates a positive social and environmental impact can go far beyond just "doing some good." It can also help grow your business, attract top talent (especially millennials), build customer engagement, enhance your business image, keep you ahead of potential regulatory changes and, yes, boost your bottom line.

Put simply, many people want to make a positive contribution, and they want to do business with organizations that share their values. You can choose to view CSR initiatives as outside of your company's scope, but a great number of thriving organizations are making CSR a core part of what they do. Here's how to get started.

Take a Look at How You're Doing

Begin by auditing your current social and environmental impact and look for opportunities to improve. Can you use less energy? Can you do more to build bonds with community organizations? What causes and CSR initiatives might your employees or customers be interested in? Ask basic questions, review answers and make decisions accordingly.

Think Green

Never forget that sustainable practices can help save you money. When you stop wasting resources like electricity and paper, you can also help to reduce operating expenses. Yes, you might have to make an initial investment in technology to help decrease your energy usage, such as sensors that automatically turn off lights in unoccupied rooms, but you'll recover that over time. When you reduce your carbon footprint, you're often also more energy- and cost-efficient — it's a win-win.

Involve Your Workforce

Engage your employees around your CSR initiatives. Many employees and job candidates, especially millennials, seek meaning in the work they do, wanting a purpose that goes beyond profits. When you involve your employees, your community and your customers in your initiatives, you can help create goodwill and drive engagement that can increase productivity and brand loyalty. Many employees want to feel proud to work for you, and few things make employees prouder than working for an organization that's making a positive impact.

Follow Good Examples

So many businesses are now using their CSR initiatives to engage their stakeholders, employees, customers and community. Take ideas and inspiration from them. For example, California-based Equator Coffees and Teas, which roasts coffee (a B2B operation) and operates cafes (a B2C operation), has built its entire business model around sustainable practices such as reducing energy consumption, recycling, paying fair prices to its global suppliers and promoting volunteering among employees. Indeed, Equator was so committed to driving a positive social and environmental impact that it became a Certified B Corp: This means they're required to follow a number of sustainable business practices in their operations.

Not sure where to start? Ask your employees about the causes they're passionate about. Or take to social media and engage your customer base by asking them to offer suggestions. The potential for improved customer engagement and brand image is the icing on the cake.

Tags: innovation Employee Engagement