Businesses face the challenge of having to make profits and being socially responsible at the same time. While the two concepts don’t cancel each other out, business owners too often must choose between being responsible community citizens and making ends meet. Large corporations that are accountable to shareholders and sole proprietorships alike consistently make difficult choices that come with varying consequences.


Socially responsible businesses pay their labor force a decent living wage, offer health benefits and safe working conditions. Many small businesses would not be able to operate, however, if they paid more than minimum wage, offered employees full-time hours and provided health insurance for workers and their families. Moving manufacturing offshore to third world countries is an option some businesses choose to keep consumer prices down and remain competitive. While many business owners would prefer to support a local labor force, they often cannot afford to keep the doors open by meeting local worker demands.


The government regulates many manufacturing companies so they don’t pollute local water, land and air. Businesses follow these environmental regulations to keep operating and avoid large fines. However, businesses can avoid these regulatory requirements by having their goods made overseas in countries that do not have such stringent environmental regulations. Owners often grapple with the cost of doing business versus the socially responsible path of using only vendors that don’t pollute. Again, however, to remain competitive and stay in business, they often choose the less costly suppliers, regardless of their environmental policies.

Natural Resources

Businesses that rely on natural resources to make their products face a conundrum. Do they continue using up resources that in some cases are becoming increasingly more difficult to find, or do they halt manufacturing until new methods can be invented? Ceasing the use of materials such as coal, oil and precious metals can mean both reduction in profits and closing of businesses that can’t get their products through any other means.

Consumer Criticism

Perhaps one of the greatest issues facing business is the growing consumer concern over social responsibility. Consumers are holding businesses accountable for providing a decent living wage to workers, refusing to use underpaid foreign labor and operating environmentally sustainable companies, yet they demand lower prices. Consumers rant about the use of child labor in Chinese toy factories while they continue to pass by the local toymaker in favor of the big-box stores that sell only toys made overseas. Businesses must walk a narrow line between public perception, negative social responsibility campaigns and providing their customers with the most competitive pricing.