How to integrate social responsibility into your small business

It would be easy to think that corporate social responsibility is just for government, non-profit organisations and big businesses. But whether you’re large or small, every business leader can make a positive impact.

There’s a variety of benefits, beyond just giving back, to getting your business involved; corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and differentiation to your competitors. However, with so many different initiatives out there, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Here are just a few steps to ensure you find the right cause for your business:

1. Let your values guide you

For those new to CSR, there are four main categories:

  • Environmental sustainability initiatives – businesses work to eliminate processes that damage the environment, for example going paper-less.
  • Direct philanthropic giving – the donation of time, money or resources to charities and organisations at the local, national or international level.
  • Ethical business practices – provide fair labour practices for employees such as equal pay for equal work and living wage compensation initiatives.
  • Economic responsibility – balancing economic decisions while considering the overall effects on society, for example streamlining manufacturing to use less resources.

Before jumping into implementation, it’s important to choose initiatives that resonate with your mission, values and staff. For example, is your business environmentally conscience, or, do you have ties to the local community? Let your employee passions guide your chosen cause – remember you can always vote on and change it annually.

Choosing a cause that aligns with your business and employee values can have a positive impact workplace happiness and staff retention. CSR is also an effective way to highlight your business culture to potential employees.

2. Align your resources

Now that the chosen initiative has been confirmed, consider the resources (both employee time and available budget) that you can dedicate to this activity. Most small businesses don’t have access to the capital required to back a large donation-based cause. So, consider something volunteer based. For example, you could participate in a soup kitchen like Fare Share, or get involved in large scale budget friendly initiatives like Sleep at the G.

3. Start small

Once you’ve decided on your activity, implementation can begin. Appoint someone in your organisation to lead the initiative to ensure it stays high on the business agenda. It could be something small like coordinating everyone’s availability for volunteering days or collecting donations for your chosen charity.

Once the program is complete, ensure the CSR leader shares updates through internal communications and social media content. This is an effective way to keep internal and external stakeholders informed.

Corporate social responsibility is a positive sign of your organisation’s social awareness. It not only shows that you are making a difference, but that your business cares about more than just the bottom line.

So, get out there and start helping!

Mike Covey, Vice President and Managing Director, Henry Schein ANZ 

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