15 November, 2012, by Francine Pickering
Corporate Social Responsibility and the Smaller Business
“Guilt by big business” was one definition of CSR offered by an audience member at this presentation and with recent tax avoidance from some very large businesses very much in the news, it’s not surprising that some might hold this view.But, having established that there actually isn’t any universal definition of Corporate Social Responsibility, Dale’s presentation highlighted that while most small business don’t talk about CSR, they nevertheless still do it.
The values that CSR encompasses are:
- Ethical values
- Respect for people, the community and the environment
- Corporate citizenship – being a good neighbour
All of which are well within the grasp of the smallest businesses, even though traditional philanthropic approaches might prove too costly. Indeed, the cost of implementing CSR was one topic which raised a bit of audience discussion as even activities that have no direct financial cost are likely to have costs in terms of time devoted to them.
Another perceived burden is that of reporting on CSR activities and for larger businesses formal accountability and certification procedures might be important. For the smaller business these might or might not be necessary but it is useful to keep a check on what your business does do.
Unfortunately, our scheduled speaker from the University’s International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility was, at the last minute, unable to make the presentation which meant that I stepped in to look at some of the drivers of social responsibility for the smaller business.
- Keeping the best employees enthused and engaged – as much so as the business owner.
- Customers are increasingly expecting the businesses they deal with to be closer to them in ways that matter to them.
- They expect “good behaviour” to be intrinsic to the way you do business, not just and “add on” to superficially build reputation.
- They want business to not just support the local community but to be at the heart of it.
- Larger clients who used to simply ask for some certificated evidence of your green credentials not want input into their bigger picture beyond basic compliance.
- The need to find the best way to demonstrate your business values and ethics – it might not be a piece of paper.
- And, the often overlooked driver, the business owner’s own motivation to set up in business in the first place – to do business in a better way.
Of course, these days, social media also plays a part in allowing your customers and other stakeholders to see what you are doing and to choose who they do business with based on what they see. Their loyalty to you is no longer based on simple transactions; it relies on your transparency, consistency of action, and commitment to your values.
Dale finished off the presentation with some examples of how local businesses are putting their CSR into action. His speciality is helping businesses work more effectively with schools as they build their own relationships and reputation with the employees of tomorrow, contributing to the teaching of the school, raising aspirations and interest amongst the pupils, and increasing the skills and confidence of the employees involved – social responsibility in action for a smaller business.
The audience said:
“Good to think about CSR in a more holistic manner.”
“Good presentations, gave me time to think about new ideas and perspectives.”
“CSR appears to be a return to core values.”
“Everything was relevant, up to date, challenging, informative & enjoyable”
“Good ideas generated and shared – interactivity, excellent”
The Ingenuity Knowledge Exchange breakfasts are free and open to all business owners. The events that we have planned for 2013 are now on the Ingenuity web site and we will be adding information as they develop. Expect to see some familiar favourites and some brand new speakers – all with something eye-opening yet practical to share.