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Why CSR Is For Small Businesses, Not Just Corporates

Regardless of what The Apprentice teaches us, it pays to be ethical in business. Even the smallest start-ups can put good causes at the very centre of their business plans, creating a win-win situation for all.

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Regardless of what The Apprentice teaches us, it pays to be ethical in business. Even the smallest start-ups can put good causes at the very centre of their business plans, creating a win-win situation for all.

Opinions

Why CSR Is For Small Businesses, Not Just Corporates

Regardless of what The Apprentice teaches us, it pays to be ethical in business. Even the smallest start-ups can put good causes at the very centre of their business plans, creating a win-win situation for all.

Share this article

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business discipline that is sometimes viewed with cynicism. It’s also seen as something generally done by big business, not SMEs. That is wrong on both accounts, and it is something any start-up should be considering

CSR should be a no-brainer for any business. It can demonstrate an on-going commitment to behaving ethically; it can help improve the lives of others, whether the workforce, their family or the local community at large; it can also make a contribution to improving the planet.

Yet for some, CSR is perceived as just another PR tool for big business, a drop in the ocean that does more good for that company’s brand than it does for others.

Sometimes though, we all need to suspend the cynicism. Of course, part of the reason that businesses embark on CSR programmes are related to their own brand – but does this even matter if good is being done?

At Ormsby Street we’ve just embarked on our first CSR programme and I would advise any other start-up or small business to do the same. This is why, and how anyone interested should go about starting off.

More than a corporate comms exercise

There is a reason that every FTSE 100 company includes its CSR activity in annual reporting and it is hard to conduct any kind of business in 2016 that isn’t done so sustainably. CSR is far more than just ‘going green’ or having a recycling policy, it is about re-evaluating how an organisation does business and addressing the needs of communities, people and the planet.

City of London

Now every big business has CSR at the centre of their business plans

This long-term approach to business gives an organisation honesty and transparency, qualities that are valued higher than ever in the wake of a number of corporate scandals over the past decade or so. But it can also have a real impact on the bottom line. Consumers are smart and savvy, and have the means to make a considered decision about whom to spend their money with.

If a company is involved in dubious practices, then thanks to the rapid sharing of information, it is far more likely to be common knowledge than ever before. The millennial generation especially is socially aware and likes to feel good about the money they spend.

Faced with a decision between two companies that are more or less equal, if one makes good on its CSR and the other doesn’t, then it’s a straightforward choice. The 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study, research that looks at how Millennials engage with CSR efforts in the U.S., reveals more than nine-in-10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.

The same rules apply when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent, where an organisation’s CSR strategy and record is becoming increasingly important to the next generation of workers.

The 2014 Millennial Impact Report, the most recent update to a five-year study, revealed that beyond compensation and benefits, what matters most to millennials applying for a job, is that company’s work culture and involvement with causes.

Because millennials are increasingly engaging with causes, they want to believe that if their employer cares about those causes they will care about treating employees well, too.

And last by no means least, CSR programmes do immense good for the world! Whether it’s for an area local to a business or somewhere else in the world or a particular group of disadvantaged people – whichever way an organisation gets involved, people are benefitting.

CSR for SMEs

That’s why it is important for small businesses to get involved in CSR. There were 5.4 million SMEs in the UK in 2015, (more than 99% of all businesses), and if they all got involved in CSR then the impact would be truly profound. So what is the best way for a smaller organisation to go approach implementing a CSR programme?

First of all, it’s imperative to choose the right type of CSR, whether supporting the environment, a community or something else. This can be done via a wide array of tactics, from allowing employees to spend time at a not-for-profit, donating a percentage of profits or giving away a product or service.

charity and giving

Charitabloe causes are a win-win for small businesses

It’s also smart to choose a programme that dovetails with, or has resonance to your own business.  At Ormsby Street, we aim to help SMEs run their businesses more efficiently using our credit-checking tool, CreditHQ. But in some countries it is hard for small businesses to even get started, which is why we have partnered with Lend with Care.

Lend with Care is an innovative micro-finance charity, that pairs entrepreneurs in developing countries with investors in more fortunate parts of the world,  helping the entrepreneurs borrow money to transform (or start) their business, with loans paid back in affordable amounts and without unfair interest rates. This is a good fit with what we do and allows us to help out, as well as realise the benefits outlined above

CSR for small businesses is undoubtedly a win-win situation. It allows your organisation to appeal to socially aware consumers and prospective employees and you can also make a real difference to the world. Transparency and honesty are highly undervalued in business, and being open about what you're doing in CSR is real asset in winning trust for your firm.

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Why CSR Is For Small Businesses, Not Just Corporates

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