Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t just for big companies – SMEs can totally make a difference too.
Recently on the blog, we looked at how small businesses can implement meaningful CSR programmes as well as a few practical considerations you need to go through when setting one up.
But there are so many causes out there in need of help, it can be hard to choose just one. If you’ve never implemented a CSR policy before or don’t have any particular charitable allegiances, it can be hard to pick a single cause to back. Let’s take a look at 3 categories of support your small business can implement to help make the world a better place.
If you’re totally new to the CSR game, you might want to check out our previous article first: A Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility for Small Business.
Some Ideas for CSR Programmes
It should go without saying that the best CSR policies come from the heart. If you’re looking into CSR, you may have a few causes that immediately spring to mind. But small organisations can only give so much, you need to be smart about what you give and how. Thankfully, there are many ways that businesses can support the common good – let’s look at three distinct categories that most CSR programmes fall into: fundraising, going green, and helping your fellow human.
Fundraising and Lending a Hand
Raising funds is probably the first kind of charitable act that springs to mind when you’re thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility.
When you make any CSR decisions, you need emotional buy-in from your team. Involve your team in the decision-making process and choose causes that mean a lot to them. Are there any local initiatives or community interest companies (CICs) that unanimously mean a lot to you and your team? If so, the company as a whole could participate in regular fundraising events to support those causes.
However, if nothing close to home springs to mind, there are a number of well-known national initiatives you can get involved in – all of which are great ways to start dipping your toes into CSR waters. You could hold a Macmillan Coffee Morning or Jeans for Genes Day. Or if you want to get a little more involved, you could organise a works outing to take part in a sponsored Cancer Research UK Race for Life or an Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk.
But these aren’t set in stone – if you want to implement your own unique way of raising funds, then go right ahead! I’ll keep the bath of beans on standby.
The gift of money isn’t the only way a company can give back. Most charities don’t just need funds, they need manpower too. If you and your team can donate your time to actively provide “boots on the ground” for a charity, then why not consider it? Whether it’s offering help at a local food bank, doing litter picks, or even offering your company’s own services to help a charitable organisation. For example, if you’re an accountancy firm, there may be a local charity or CIC who are crying out for bookkeeping assistance.
If your company’s doing well financially but can’t really afford to give man-hours, you can always give a certain amount of your proceeds to a good cause. Decide how this is going to work for you beforehand – are you going to devote a certain percentage of your profits to charity, or perhaps ring-fence a certain amount to go to your cause of choice? There are no set rules for CSR, so it’s really down to what works for you.
Heal the World
If you’re short on both time and cash, starting a meaningful environmental policy could be right up your street. Implementing paperless systems, replacing old fluorescent lighting with energy-saving LEDs, switching off non-essential sockets at the end of each day, and starting a recycling initiative all take relatively minimal setup/outlay, and can save you money in the long run.
Think carefully about how you use disposable paper or plastic items and consider whether they can be replaced with reusable alternatives (for example, using proper mugs and glasses rather than paper cups). If you produce goods, think about your production processes. Can the process be streamlined in terms of energy used? Are there any by-products or wastage that can be reused or handled in an eco-friendlier way? You could also encourage customers to recycle your products or packaging by providing clear instructions on how to do so with every order.
Carbon emissions are a huge concern for many, so rethinking the relationship your business has with travel can be a worthwhile endeavour. You could offer staff the flexibility to work from home, incentivise your team to favour public transport or car-sharing to get to and from work or make moves to ensure all company vehicles operate as cleanly as possible.
However, if you have the scope to go down the fundraising/cash donation route, there are a number of organisations you can donate to. Numerous causes spring to mind here – not necessarily those close to home. If endangered species mean a lot to you, you could consider donating to the WWF or the Jane Goodall Institute. If the amount of pollutants and plastic rubbish in our oceans concerns you, consider giving to the Marine Conservation Society or Just One Ocean. Rainforest deforestation affects numerous endangered species as well as having an adverse effect on the environment, so if that’s a cause resounds with you, you may want to look at the Rainforest Foundation UK or Cool Earth.
Power to the People
Let’s not forget about organisations who fight for human rights and civil liberties both in the UK and abroad. Your CSR policy can be based around fundraising or local activism, helping these charities to continue operations as well as spreading the word.
If you’re looking to donate to struggling communities in the third world, why not consider purchasing small livestock, or investing in water pumps or sanitation projects that go directly to those in need; Unicef, Save the Children, and WorldVision, are great places to start looking for these kinds of gifts.
However, it’s estimated that over 20% of people in the UK live in poverty, so causes like The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, End Child Poverty, Shelter, or the Trussell Trust might also be worth considering.
Going on a slight tangent, you can run CSR policies that personally benefit your team. If you’re passionate about people earning a good living, why not participate in the real living wage? The Living Wage Foundation points out that though the national minimum wage for over 25s is £7.83, they’ve independently calculated that it should be £8.75 (or £10.20 for those in London) to properly account for the modern cost of living. According to the LWF, 75% of businesses who’ve adopted the foundation’s suggested rates say it increased employee motivation and retention, with 86% saying it improved their reputation.
Adopting a CSR policy needn’t be costly, and certainly shouldn’t negatively impact your day to day operations. It’s always wise to set a limit of time or money spent on your CSR objectives and set up a way of reporting on your CSR work to make sure you’re not over-stretching yourself or your team. Implementing a meaningful corporate social responsibility policy is a noble goal, but remember that your first responsibility is to your team and their wellbeing.
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So, reader, it’s over to you. What CSR ideas do you have in mind? Do they dovetail nicely with what your company does? Or are you considering something totally different? Let’s have a natter down in the comments!