Businesses are coming under increasing pressure to engage in activities which come under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) banner. CSR follows the concept that each company has a responsibility, in fact an obligation, to help the same community that allows them to earn profit.
Many believe that the larger multi-national companies impact the most upon society, and therefore, must be the primary undertakers of CSR activities; however, statistics tell another story. As we know, official data gathered from across the globe, has found that more than 90% of the businesses in the world are classified as small and medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs play a vital role and are an important part of the UK, EU and global economy; however when it comes to adopting social responsibility, smaller companies are falling behind in making changes within their businesses to honour ethical values, people, communities and the natural environment.
Although small and mid-sized organisations may not have a multinational’s budget to help them develop their CSR activities, there are some highly productive activities that can be undertaken by smaller businesses that can make a big difference.
SME’s can reap significant benefits from a reorganised approach to CSR.
Consider our key steps to ‘SME SR’:
- To implement a social responsibility program effectively, a company must engage employees in the planning process. Talk to your staff. What causes do they want to support? What would create meaning and motivation for them in the workplace? By getting your network of people on board, you can work together to form an effective strategy. Set your ‘SME SR’ objectives.
- Social responsibility isn’t just about recycling your paper and turning off lights. It requires a change in attitude. Look at every aspect of your business; from your impact on the environment, your staff, your community and your business network.
- Gather ideas internally, from amongst your team and externally, from the wider business community and internet, of activities and undertakings you can commit to that fit with your ‘SME SR objectives’.
- You may want to reduce your impact on the environment by reducing the amount of meetings that you drive to and embracing remote-meeting technology.
- Rather than printing documents for clients, send PDFs via email.
- If you do have to print, make sure it is duplex.
- Stop printing out 1000s of brochures and leaflets that never get used. If you do need tangible marketing collateral, use folders with digitally printed inserts (printed as and when needed).
- Use low energy bulbs.
- Don’t leave PCs and equipment on standby.
- Incentivise car sharing or cycling to work.
- In the winter, introduce morning and afternoon hugging sessions to stay warm and reduce heating needs (only joking…or not!)
- Allocate days when you’ll work in the community or for a cause.
- Adopt a cause to fundraise for.
- Most importantly, make it fun!
- ‘SME SR’ should be viewed as a process of building shared value within your organisiation, rather than a superficial PR exercise. Whilst it will undoubtedly give your business something to shout about, in blogs, newsletters and social media, we believe it is a lifetime commitment that should be integrated into the day-to-day running of your business.
What is in it for me, I hear you say? Well the benefits can be significant for SMEs:
- Improved image and reputation within your market and local community
- Improved trust and understanding
- Larger, more prominent profile within your community
- Possible business opportunities
- Increased employee motivation within your organisation
- Increased attractiveness to potential recruits and clients
- Considerable cost savings and increased efficiencies within your organisation
These are just a few of the ways you can benefit. Over time, you will be surprised at what doors open as a result of your consideration of your business’ impact on your community, network and environment. We may be small, but combined; SMEs have the power to make a real positive impact on our external environment. So next time someone talks about CSR, think ‘SME SR’!