This article was written by Dr. Erik Klein and published nationally in Canadian Chiropractor magazine in June, 2019.
Investing in the greater good is becoming less of a niche, “feel-good add on,” and is more of a necessity in this ever-changing business environment. The Millennial factor, which initially made Boomers and Gen X’ers scratch their heads, is now entering the executive-suite, and is demanding that day-to-day operations not only be about balance sheets and profit, but also about bringing greater change to our landscape. Purpose and credibility is no longer mutually exclusive.
Changing the world will always be good for the bottom line, no matter how you look at it.
In the health sector, the chiropractic profession is in a great position to take the lead on purpose-driven business. This is truly a unique opportunity to stand out in an area where we have traditionally struggled. Credibility, unshackled by government politics of health bureaucracy, we can lead the charge on what health care “should” be. The reality is, as phenomenal as our care is on a day to day basis, on a national and global scale there is a much more ominous factor contributing to health care: the social determinants of health (SDH).
According to the World Health Organization, the SDH “are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries”
Between 2012 and 2016 I served on the board of the Regional Health Authority “Horizon Health Network” in New Brunswick which runs over 100 hospital facilities, employs 13,000 people (including over 1,000 physicians), has a budget of $1.3 billion and answers directly to the Minister of Health. What I quickly realized was that in our health system, regardless of initiatives adding 3T MRIs and extra OR time, people are progressively getting unhealthier. The reality is, poor nutrition, chronic stress, inactivity, social isolation, and a lack of education leads to chronic illness, increased health costs and early death – and that cannot be rectified with any amount of technology. We must address the problem at its source. This realization struck me to my core and re-framed what it means to be a socially responsible entrepreneur.
According to a 2017 report by the Canadian Institute of Health Information, they found that (regarding hospital utilization by the general public):
“At ages 50 to 74, high users were more likely than non-high users to be in the lowest household income group (47 per cent versus 34.4 per cent).” Further, “physical inactivity, lack of a domestic partner, and being a minority” were other major factors.
The average cost to taxpayers for a hospital stay is between $1,000/bed on a family medicine floor, and $3,000 for an ICU. Every. Single. Day. The costs are staggering, and with high re-admission rates in these populations, the problem isn’t being solved.
The old adage of the 80/20 rule rings true. Twenty per cent of the most vulnerable members of the public use 80 per cent of our public services. While in Atlantic Canada, only 5-7 per cent directly see a chiropractor annually, we can have a positive influence on 80 per cent of our social support net, and build our business along the way.
We as chiropractors can take the bull by the horns and make a difference here. The average chiropractic practice generally serves an upper middle class, insured and health conscious individual. We will make a great change to their life, performance and well-being, but we can always do more. By being front and center in the community as being “agents of change,” we establish our practices as those of the highest credibility.
In New Brunswick, there is a social investment club of leading businesses called the “Million Dollar Pledge.” Each of the ten businesses pledge $10,000 per year for ten years for a total of $1 million dollars. While the group selects projects, the administration and reporting is handled through the expertise of the United Way. The statistics on the results of these social investments are optimistic. The following is a published quote of one of the beneficiaries:
“When I was 15 years old, my mom started using drugs, quickly became addicted, and my home life became really chaotic. We ended up losing our home. I started missing a lot of school and was staying with my extended family, but there wasn’t much stability. With the support from the Million Dollar Pledge, I got much needed hygiene supplies, healthcare and transportation so I could start to get my life back on track. They worked with my school to help me catch up on the work I’d missed. The staff also helped me realize that therapy could really benefit me. They knew I was anxious about going so they connected with me before and after each session to make sure I was OK. I do still struggle but I have gained self-control and am learning to be less discouraged by things I cannot change. I now live with my dad full time. Even though I had to move, I feel self- sufficient and able to deal with these changes. I am now back in school full time, participating in school activities and doing sports.”
According to Forbes, empathy is becoming big business. Belinda Parmar, CEO of the The Empathy Business found that the top 10 most empathetic companies outperformed the bottom 10 by up to 50 per cent.
Not every region has an opportunity like the Million Dollar Pledge; however there are many easy ways to become a more purpose driven business. Serving on non-profit boards, volunteering for sports teams with low-income kids (like Pro Kids), and donating to projects that resonate with you and your staff can all bring great social and financial ROI. Further, if you want to grow, today’s graduates demand this corporate outlook. Our newest chiropractors are aligning their employment choices with the values, actions and impact of the organization; it’s those brands which invest in a better society which win out when attracting top talent.
You can even certify as a purpose driven business. Certified B Corporations a.k.a. “B the change” officially state that they are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force of good.
If the chiropractic community can lift one family out of poverty, put one single mom back to work, or contribute to one child being the first in their family to graduate high school, this goes a long way to really making a difference in your community. Not only is supporting such programs and organizations with your time and money simply the right thing to do, attaching your name and brand to such initiatives will resonate with a message of hope and a better future in your community.
Simply put, becoming a purpose driven business equates to being more credible in today’s business environment and is the smartest business decision you can make this year.