Published On: Sat, Mar 16th, 2019

Corporate Social Responsibility: The Benefits for Small Businesses

Today’s employees and consumers have a social and environmental conscience like they’ve never had before. These days, it’s not just a business’s products, marketing and prices that make a brand resonate with the public, it’s also what the business stands for and how it impacts the wider world.

The cynics will always argue that the most important thing to any business is its bottom line, and while that’s still true, businesses that embrace ‘corporate citizenship’ can boost their profitability. CSR initiatives are all too often used as a transparent attempt to get the public and employees onside. For example, after plunging the world into a global financial crisis, it’s perhaps not surprising that the banks are communicating much softer marketing messages. But consumers can see right through that. The businesses that are really engaging the public and their employees are those that practice what they preach.

Small businesses are leading the charge

When it comes to practicing what they preach, it’s really the smaller businesses that are taking it to the larger organisations. The growing awareness of social and environmental issues among the general public means an increasing number of small businesses are being created with sustainability at their core.

There are many examples of this in practice. The UK SME Piccolo Foods has committed to donating one pouch of baby food to charity for every pouch it sells in store. Similarly, the office fruit supplier Fruitful Office has committed to a vast reforestation exercise in Malawi. For every basket of fruit it sells, a new tree is planted. To date, 1.6 million trees have been planted, creating food and jobs for the local population as well as regenerating the environment.

The important lesson is that when it comes to corporate social responsibility initiatives, size doesn’t matter. You don’t have to have deep pockets to make a difference. The key is to focus on supporting one or a few causes where you can have a real impact rather than spreading yourself too thin.

The business case for CSR

In larger organisations, CSR can be seen as something that must be done, but which often gets in the way of real work. However, a strong business case can be made for CSR. Principles and profits don’t have to be rivals and it is those smaller businesses that make it a core part of their strategy that really reap the rewards.

  • Enhance your reputation – CSR can be an effective and cheap way to differentiate your business from your rivals. Take every opportunity to let customers and stakeholders know exactly what you’re up to.
  • Reduce overheads – Being more aware of the world around by fitting energy efficient appliances and allowing flexible working can reduce your costs. 
  • Recruit and retain talent – Your green and charitable credentials can be attractive for employees and could potentially be the deciding factor for a job applicant.
  • Win more business – CSR can become an important tool in your business development strategy, making you the sort of company other businesses want to work with.

Does your employer engage in CSR initiatives? If so, how does it make you feel about the business? As a business owner, what are the challenges of engaging in CSR? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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