A recent CNBC Business story calls on corporate leaders to assume an active role in assisting with the nation’s social ills. The report suggests that business leaders can make a difference not only for economic problems, but also for concerns such as public safety and welfare. Many organizations deliver speeches and talks about social responsibility, states the report, but now – more than ever – business leaders can do more than make hollow promises. In collaboration with legislators, business leaders can make a monumental impact on the quality of life in the United States. While it’s impossible to create a perfect society, collaboration between public and private enterprises can help leaders produce considerable lifestyle improvements for many American citizens.
In the past, for-profit enterprises have shied away from involvement in societal issues for fear of losing profits due to consumer backlash. Recently, however, major companies have taken a stand on social issues without so much as asking for shareholder opinion. Some experts believe that businesses risk losing customers or clients when taking a stand on public issues. However, consumers, employees, owners and community groups all have varying opinions on how taking a stance on social issues affects operations. Additionally, a firm can suffer an equal backlash for not taking a stand on an issue, so social involvement is also a way for businesses to reinforce and improve their public image.
There are many issues that government and business leader can focus on to improve living standards in the United States. The following 5 entries review a few of the social issues of concern in the United States.
Issue 1: Homelessness
“The state of being food and shelter insecure” is the official definition of homelessness as outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The agency considers any adult who cannot pay rent independently and must stay with friends, relatives or in a place unsuitable for habitation as a homeless individual. Nearly 550,000 people were homeless each day in the year 2016. In the United States, approximately 1.5 million citizens experience homelessness for one night or more. Research cites the low minimum wage as a primary cause of these individuals’ inability to pay rent. To help reduce homelessness, the United States population needs more government and private programs the teach at-risk individuals marketable skills.
Issue 2: Poverty
Since 1959, the poverty rate has fallen from 27.3-percent to 21.1-percent, and personal income has risen from $17,292 to $30,176 annually since 1970. The government started its mission to reduce poverty in 1935 by providing social security benefits to all citizens over 65 and unemployed workers, as well as lump sum payments to beneficiaries. If analysts include other financial benefits, such as food stamps, tax credits and tax refunds, the outlook appears even better for the American population, resulting in nearly 50 million people rising out of poverty due to government subsidized programs. To continue this trend, public advocates and community leaders must rally for the expansion and preservation of programs that assist those in need.
Issue 3: Substance Abuse
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) states that almost 27 million United States citizens ages 12 and older are habitual drug users. In 2015, nearly 20 million people abused prescription drugs, and 11 million citizens use marijuana illegally.
Substance abuse nurses specialize in helping addicts manage pain, regulating drug treatment and educating patients, friends and family members about drug abuse. As leaders in their respective communities, these healthcare professionals help drug addicts and their support networks lead productive, satisfying lives.
Issue 4: Healthcare
To date, there’s much debate over the viability of the Affordable Care Act. Despite this, more Americans believe that the initiative has had a positive effect on the United States healthcare system. In fact, positive support for the act has grown 20-percent since 2013. Approximately three-quarters of the United States population supports government intervention to ensure the quality of the nation’s healthcare services. However, nearly 60-percent of citizens think that the government can do more to improve American citizens’ access to healthcare.
Issue 5: The Social Impact of Commerce
More companies are paying attention to how their operations affect the community economically, emotionally, and environmentally. Successful businesses are increasingly using the latest technology to resolve social problems. When firms open their doors in new communities, they use big data technology to assess how their work might affect the surrounding area and discover other environmental factors that may make it difficult to achieve organizational objectives. The Shell Corporation, for example, maps 10 major factors of value to the community and the enterprise. The company evaluates how the factors will affect short-term goals, long-term goals and their standing in the community. Firms that successfully conduct these kinds of complex assessments better understand all interested parties, learn the value of external relationships and serve as leaders in the community.
Social problems are intricate and challenging. As such, advocates for societal change and improvement are calling for business leaders to use their vast resources to resolve some of society’s biggest issues. Even though businesses are for-profit organizations, many – including organizational leaders – see a mutual benefit in working toward societal improvement.