CSR for Small Business: You Can be Small and Have it All

February 11, 2021
Eliza Parish

You don’t have to have a big budget to implement a CSR or Sustainability program in your business.  Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for 99% of all businesses, making them an obvious and critical participant in furthering CSR practices. Further, SMEs can find just as much value in these initiatives as do large businesses. Today, the landscape of CSR has evolved from transactional approaches, to more personal, responsible, and socially valuable approaches.  In turn, making investing in CSR/Sustainability, ideal for SMEs.

Positive Brand Power

Consumers keep tabs on socially impactful businesses. In fact, a 2017 Cone Communications study found that 86% of consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues. Companies that weave their social initiatives into their narrative in a consistent way only have positive brand power to gain.  There’s also revenue to gain, or lose.  Over 50% of participants in the Cone Communications study also said that they have boycotted a company for irresponsible business actions.  The bottom line: consumers are watching now more than ever and they are holding companies accountable.

Empowering Your Workforce

Brand and company culture are also inherently tied to one another.  CSR programs are an excellent opportunity to build company culture and engagement in SMEs. It’s also commonly quoted in the CSR world that these types of programs help drive employee retention and workforce preference for potential candidates. Employees want to feel a connection to their company and their fellow employees, as well as being a part of a greater good.  Socially responsible companies help to nurture those relationships, and also provide opportunities for social impact. The bottom line for SMEs:  create an environment and company culture where everyone works together for a good cause.

Finding the Right CSR Program Fit

There are many different types of CSR programs to choose from.  SMEs can start small and grown from there, once they figure out the best fit for their company.  Here are a few steps to get started:

Determine Your Charitable Impact Goal

You have options!

  • Find a cause or causes that align well with your company and employees.
  • Or, consider finding similarly sized charities to support.
  • Set up a small grant program in your community or provide small loans to individuals through microlending organizations like Kiva.
  • Start a Plant a Tree Campaign for your customers.
  • Alternatively, companies can focus on internal sustainability objectives by going paperless, encouraging low energy consumption, purchasing sustainably, or education employees on individual sustainability initiatives.

Choose a Platform

A CSR platform is by no means required to establish a solid program, but it can be helpful and a fun way to track impact. Below are a few benefits to using a platform:

  • Streamline communications to your employees
  • Track employee engagement
  • Offer a variety of “out of the box” options for getting started
  • Charity vetting
  • Reward programs and employee recognition
  • Holistic employee programs (including CSR, Health, Financial Wellness, etc.)

Tell Your Story

Finally, telling your CSR story is important for building brand and culture. It’s a great way to differentiate yourselffrom your competitors and it’s easy marketing material. You can market your CSR initiatives without doing a full on (over the top) media blitz.  Essentially, your goal should be to provide subtle messaging without bragging. Add a page on your website, put up signs in your store, or add to product packaging to highlight your impact.

What’s the ROI?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: CSR programs are great for the bottom line.  A comprehensive study conducted by IO Sustainability and Babson College (with the support of Verizon and Campbell Soup Company) found:

CSR could potentially increase the market value of a company by up to 6% over a 15- year period. Market value may grow even more — to 40-80% higher than peers’ and competitors’ market value — for companies with strong relationships with stakeholders such as environmental and social NGOs.

Further, the study also found several advantages on the human resources front due to employee retention of talent attracted to CR. Staff turnover rates are 25 to 50% lower in responsible companies (Project ROI). Additionally, the study found that these companies register a 7.5% increase in employee engagement, and show 13% higher productivity than other companies. The bottom line: the ROI is real and tangible for companies with CSR programs.  It’s time to get your SME involved!

Learn more about MaximusLife and our platform for SMEs today!

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