Corporate Social Responsibility: How Small to Medium Sized Businesses Can Get It Right

Over the past decade, corporate social responsibility (or CSR) has evolved from a luxury to a fundamental priority that businesses of all sizes, sectors and industries embrace. Consumers today hold companies to a higher standard – expecting more than material products and quality services. CSR is not just for big companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, and Coca-Cola. Even more so, it’s not just B2C companies that are turning to social responsibility initiatives, but B2B companies as well.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, corporate social responsibility can be defined as a business’s commitment to behave ethically and contribute to economic development, while also improving the quality of life for its workforce and their families. CSR also works towards benefiting the local or global community at large, which in turn is helping improve our planet. A business’s willingness to give back helps to drive trust in an organization and helps to maintain a healthy and sustainable planet.

From a consumer’s standpoint, your company’s willingness to practice social responsibility can be the be the deciding factor in choosing to do business with you or your competitor. According to a 2015 study conducted by Cone Communications, 9 out of 10 consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, operating responsibly to address social and environmental issues that affect the world. 84% say they specifically seek out responsible products whenever possible, and 90% would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible or deceptive business practices.

CSR is also very important to millennials, who are the fastest growing force in the marketplace. They prefer to do business with brands and companies with pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards. According to Nielson’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 73% of surveyed millennials are willing to spend more on a product from a sustainable brand.

While some may see CSR as a public relations tool to get your organization noticed, it is important to fully embrace your cause and integrate giving back into your brand’s promise. Corporate social responsibility is about transparency and a commitment to the society you do business in. Here are a few ways to add the factor of sustainability to your organization:

  1. Choose the right cause 

    Embrace a specific social responsibility program. Pick the right program for your business that clearly aligns with your organization’s visions and goals. Understand the pain points in your industry, and give back to support that cause – for example, an automobile manufacturer may pick an environmental cause with focus on clean air. A pharmaceutical company may choose a health advocacy cause in third-world countries.

  2. Create a culture built on doing good 

    The best way to fully integrate a cause into your organization is to create a culture of giving. Rework your company’s core values coming from a place of sincerity that is true to the company’s beliefs, and a CSR program will become an extension of the company’s intentions. Get your employees on board to build a culture of doing good and giving back.

    Do you offer volunteer time off at your organization (VTO)? This is a growing trend among small and medium sized businesses who are truly committed to doing a CSR program the right way. Allow your employees time to support their own personal causes, and carve out time for a company-wide volunteer day to support your specific cause.

  3. Get your customers involved 

    The number one place to teach your customers about opportunities and encourage them to get involved with your cause is in the store – at the register, in the checkout line, and through sponsorships. This type of cause marketing, often referred to as a point-of-sale approach, taps your stream of face-to-face interaction with customers for a social purpose. Making the effort to collect change can feel painstaking at times, but the donations pile up over time.

    A second way to influence your customers or brand followers is to utilize social media to get your message across, especially when targeting millennial customers. Your social media platforms are a great place to showcase any internal initiatives your company is doing to support your cause. You can also engage in two-way communication with your followers about your cause, sparking conversations that show your company genuinely cares about the issues your brand is backing.

  4. Understand that CSR comes from the top 

    For a CSR initiative to succeed, the leaders (who are often the face of the organization) must believe it is the right thing to do, and have a moral conviction strong enough to get your employees involved as well. It’s up to you to make social responsibility a core component within your operation. By actively encouraging and engaging in socially responsible programs, and soliciting ideas and participation from your employees, you can ensure that your business has a positive impact on the world.

Accelerate ActionCOACH is excited to announce that we have partnered with B1G1 (Buy 1 Give 1) to become a Business for Good. B1G1 will help us further our mission to accelerate the growth of local businesses, and impact our local and global community. The organization is specifically tailored to make giving easy for small to medium sized businesses, and has an array of causes that provides resources to third-world countries in need.

If you are also interested in becoming a Business for Good, contact us today!

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