Corporate Social Responsibility and Cannabis: Do Good, Support the Community, and Change the Conversation 

Volunteers pack lunches

There are many reasons your cannabis business should adopt a CSR program. Here are just six of them. 

Your Corporate Social Responsibility program (we call it Cannabis Social Responsibility) can take many forms, from employee volunteering and charitable donations to an ethically-sourced supply chain. And while doing good is a reward in itself, being an active community partner positively impacts the broader population and our industry – and that's the best outcome possible. 

We kicked off our CSR program in 2015 at Lightshade, and it's become an essential business pillar. 

I'd suggest you do the same, here’s why. 

Change minds in the community.

WOman gives presentation on charity

Support for legal cannabis grows as markets develop, communities understand the value of our favorite plant, and tax dollars are funneled back into cities that need a revenue boost. 

Still, the stigma persists. Our CSR program helps fight the stigma and proves that cannabis is a positive addition to the community. Soon after legalization, Colorado's cannabis industry was blamed for a significant increase in people experiencing homelessness. Our Corporate Social Responsibility initiative was developed to address these concerns (and falsehoods) and demonstrate to the community that we aren't the problem, but a solution.

There are three pillars to our CSR initiative, and we work closely with KindColorado to identify local organizations that align with each. The pillars are:

  • Individuals and families experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty. 
  • Improved food access for individuals and families in need.
  • Support for Colorado's veterans. 

Community members see Lightshade employees volunteering to support food insecure populations with organizations like Denver Urban Gardens, families experiencing homelessness with the Gathering Place and Colorado Homeless Families, or contributing to programs that help veterans with Project Sanctuary (among others). Because of our work, the broader community appreciates the efforts of the cannabis industry to improve local communities.  

Give your dispensary it’s why

We all have our reasons for starting a cannabis business. I assume most of you are motivated by profit on some level. It’s business, after all! 

But a healthy CSR program can give your business a why that transcends profit. Other than the financial reward, why does your business exist? What benefit do you provide to the community? If you have difficulty answering these questions, a CSR program defines the answers and justifies your existence to the community. 

Appeal to millennials. 

A cardboard box with donations

Millennial consumers control roughly $200 billion in buying power. Why is this important? Because Millennials are 90% more likely to buy a product that benefits society and the environment. Despite stereotypes, young people care and vote with their dollars. And they want to support ethical businesses. Not only will they be more likely to purchase from you, but they'll also feel good about doing it, even if it means they spent more than they would have with a competitor.

Get buy-in from employees. 

Employees are happier in the workplace when they know their employer has a mission beyond profit. Happy employees work harder, are proud of their work, and they stick around. Satisfied employees are also business evangelists and encourage friends, family, and even strangers to spend their dollars with you. 

A good CSR program has the added benefit of improving employee retention, and in an era where employees often leave after just six months, hiring and keeping great workers gives your cannabis business a competitive advantage. 

Competitive differentiation. 

Volunteers look at a field of flowers with arms in the air

How do you differentiate yourself when you and your competitors offer similar (or the same) products? A robust CSR program gives consumers a reason to purchase products from you rather than your competitors (it's your why, after all). It's a tool your cannabis business can use to stand out from the pack. 

CSR is the right thing to do!

The cannabis industry is young and still defining itself. It’s up to us to establish our industry as a force for good. Ultimately, that will only work if it’s done with authenticity. And we have to do it because it’s the right thing – it's that simple.