In the corporate world, the term “corporate social responsibility” has been around for some time, yet many small business owners feel they don’t need to engage in such activities or perhaps don’t fully understand what the term means or how it applies to them.
In this article, we’re going to break down the aspects of social responsibility within your business and look for ways you can promote social interests within your business at a strategic level.
The first question, however, is why bother! That’s the question most small business owners without a corporate HR department will ask – as, after all, they are so busy as it is and their objective is to make profit and they have their work cut out for them just in terms of keeping their head above water… so, what’s the benefit to a small business owner?
There are several benefits, but they mostly come down to perception, in the sense that if you are perceived to be environmentally friendly or perceived to care more about your employees than most other companies – the perception of your brand is significantly enhanced.
Nobody likes the idea of doing business with someone that doesn’t care about key issues such as green issues or the health and wellbeing of their staff, and in today’s world these issues are at the forefront of modern business.
Here are the four aspects you need to think about:
Environmental sustainability initiatives can be anything from being more mindful in terms of your use of energy (e.g. using electric cars or simply turning the lights off when you’re not in a room) or so advanced that people seek out a low carbon consultant in order to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
The idea that companies make huge amounts of profit but don’t give back has been a bugbear for many people, yet when we think of this, we tend to think of clothing chain stores that make huge profits yet use sweatshops to create their products and give very little back to the people that work for them.
The majority of “giving back” tends to be in the form of charitable donations (which are often tax efficient) yet it’s not just money you can give. If you’re a small business without much financial resource, you can give your time and offer your expertise as a way to give back. For instance, you could work with the Prince’s Trust as an entrepreneurial advisor to young entrepreneurs from challenged backgrounds.
Fair labour practices, often referred to as “Fair Trade” are a must for most businesses and consumers. Nobody likes the idea of people being exploited, particularly vulnerable people from poorer countries – yet ethical practices extend to staff within your office. For instance, offering a more flexible work arrangement to people that would benefit from working for home due to a family situation (such as a sick relative or new child) can constitute an ethical practice.
Aside from the legal requirements mandated by the HSE to be considerate of employee’s health and wellbeing, many firms are now taking much better care of their employees overall wellness by implementing practices such as yoga classes, onsite massage, and nutritional advice into working time.