Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may seem like the territory of large corporates who are setting up foundations with their spare millions. But small and medium businesses often tend naturally towards CSR. They’re well placed because they’re often very involved with other local businesses and their communities.  SMEs can do a lot to be a responsible business, from small steps to saving energy to a full commitment to being an ethical business.

Main types of CSR activity

Environmental CSR focuses on ways in which a business can reduce its contribution to greenhouse gases. Reviewing production processes can offer savings. Or, finding ways to use less energy within the business itself.

Adopting an ethical CSR stance means that a business treats suppliers, staff and customers fairly. Decisions are made because they are held to be morally right. So that goes beyond simply sticking to legal or government guidelines. This might mean that you choose not to work with suppliers who use child labour, or who don’t pay a minimum wage, for example.

The most common example of philanthropic CSR is when businesses support a charity. But beyond that, it’s about giving back to the local or wider community. Although CSR initiatives generally benefit the greater good, this is the most immediately outward-facing approach.

Setting a CSR strategy is a way for a business to review its activities and manage its footprint in all these areas.

Eight ways to become a responsible business

– Commit to saving energy in your business. For example, fit energy efficient light bulbs, or go paperless. You’ll get the dual benefits of saving money and reducing greenhouse gases.

– Assess your own processes and cut waste where you can.

– Make your own packaging environmentally friendly. As a starting point, try to use less, reuse and recycle.

– Look at delivery logistics, for deliveries you make and receive. If you’re getting an Amazon delivery a day, could you group more orders?

– Support a charity.  As a business, choose a single charity that you will commit to supporting throughout the year or even for longer. In particular, for small, local charities, it’s important to be able to rely on regular support coming in.

– Offer matching donations.  So, when staff raise money for charity, match whatever they raise.

– Allow staff volunteering days.

– Get involved in your local community. Support local events with time, sponsorship or your products if you can.

Benefits of being a responsible business

These will vary depending on your own CSR approach, but they can include:

– Better brand perception and recognition. This is because you’re known for something other than your core business offering.

– Increased sales and customer loyalty. If you do hit a rough spot, customers are more likely to forgive and forget because you’re generally one of the good guys

– Easier recruiting. Potential employees are often more interested in working with companies that they see reflecting their own values.

– Improved employee satisfaction.  You could allow your staff time off for volunteering or match their charitable donation. It means they feel your business supports what’s important to them.

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