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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) & Small Businesses: Why Does It Matter?

There is no doubt that small businesses can make a big difference in the world. CSR should be practiced in any size organization to drive the positive change that shareholders want to see.

With full compensation, one company provides their employees three days each quarter to volunteer at any charity or nonprofit of their choice. This organization is not Walmart, Patagonia, or any other large industry player. This modest and impactful corporate social responsibility initiative is being carried out by a small business called Boundery.

Whether it’s a desire to become carbon neutral, foster an inclusive work environment, or improve charitable giving efforts, focusing on a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program is the key for small businesses that want to succeed in today’s competitive environment. In fact, 53% of SMBs are working to support a social mission in 2022, engaging in charitable work and adopting sustainable business practices.

CSR programs require some groundwork to get started, but when implemented effectively, they will help your small business move towards becoming more sustainable and competitive. 

This blog breaks down the details of how your small business can start a CSR program while outlining the benefits you can experience when you start making CSR a priority.

Why Your Small Business Should Prioritize Social Responsibility?

It doesn’t matter if you have a business with 2 employees or 200. There are lots of reasons to start making corporate social responsibility a priority at your small business, including the following:

Involvement of your employees

One of the benefits of having a small business is the fact that it’s easier to get a greater number of employees involved in your CSR programs.

In the case of enterprise-level businesses, a designated department usually makes all the CSR-related decisions. However, with a small business, your employees can have a voice in what initiatives your business supports—directly connecting with local causes they care about.

After all, employees should be at the heart of your corporate social responsibility programs. Encouraging input, incorporating feedback, and creating an environment open to CSR ideas connects employees to your business on a values-based level and maximizes your impact on local communities.

Increased retention

Don’t forget that a corporate social responsibility program can boost employee engagement. When employees are involved in something bigger than themselves and feel that they’re making a difference, they’re often more committed to their work. For example, engaged employees are 17 percent more productive and have 41 percent lower absenteeism rates.

Engaged employees are also less likely to change employers and work for one of your competitors.  A decrease in employee turnover saves you from having to invest more money and time in the recruiting process to make up for lost productivity.

Gain A Competitive Advantage

When it comes to growing your small business, your products, pricing, packaging, and placement can only get you so far. To make your business stand out from your competition, it helps to showcase your company’s purpose and mission. A CSR program with clear objectives, concrete actions, and transparent results will engage your audience, increasing brand recognition and sales.

Move from establishment to expansion phase

Once you have carved out your niche in the community by opening your door and promoting your business, you’ll need to do extra work to transform your business from a startup to a success. This is where developing a CSR program — and communicating it effectively — comes in. The more consumers know about your business and have opportunities to form a positive image of your company in their minds, the more likely you are to see increased and repeat sales.

Socially conscious consumers are more mindful in their purchasing decisions and seek to purchase from companies that share similar beliefs as them. With 68% of consumers believing that a company’s commitment to social responsibility is among the most important attributes of a company, small businesses that work to make their CSR program all-encompassing (by tackling a variety of social issues) will appeal to these kindred consumers.

Prompt decision-making process

After you have implemented a CSR program in your small business, you’ll find that many decisions need to be made quickly and efficiently. Because smaller-sized businesses are typically less bureaucratic and have a more streamlined decision-making process, your CSR program can be brought to life faster than that of your competitors.

Quick decision-making allows you to start making a difference in your community sooner. The causes you choose to support, the initiatives you take part in, and making improvements to your CSR program can happen more promptly when fewer decision-makers are involved.

What Does A CSR Program Entail?

Regardless of the company’s size, an effective corporate social responsibility program should include these key components:

Step 1: Set goals

To guide your small businesses’ CSR efforts, encourage employee involvement, and maintain focus, start by setting 3 to 4 goals: outlining what you want to achieve after launching a CSR program.

When setting goals, add a timeline to when you want these goals to be accomplished. A timeline creates a sense of urgency, motivating you and your employees involved to stay on schedule and focus on the end outcome (s).

Stick to the SMART goal model when setting CSR initiatives, as anything you set out to accomplish should be:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Attainable
  4. Reasonable 
  5. Timely

For example, your company might want to improve food insecurity. Using the SMART goal model, you adjust your goals to reflect the above criteria:

  1. Donate $500 to food banks over the next 12 months.
  2. Volunteer 50 hours (a collective effort from all employees) at local soup kitchens over the next 12 months. 


Step 2: Evaluate CSR software

Your small business has now set 3-4 SMART goals and placed a time-based emphasis on each. However, you realize that in order to meet your goals, you need a social impact platform to help your small business: discover charities and nonprofits, find CSR efforts within those causes, and track your impact.

Without a social impact platform, your small business would have to spend a lot of time scouring multiple online resources for volunteer and donation opportunities while manually tracking your organization’s social impact on an Excel spreadsheet (leaving more room for human error).

Below are a few questions your small business should ask each software provider when evaluating a social impact platform:

  1. How can we discover nonprofits and charities to partner with that align with our values?
  2. How can we use a social impact platform to organize company-wide events?
  3. What initiatives can our employees take part in on an individual level?
  4. What social impact metrics can we measure? 
  5. What is the ROI of a social impact platform? Will this platform increase employee retention and decrease the cost of hiring?

Step 3: Create a detailed action plans

A detailed action plan should accompany your SMART goals to help your small business reach its objectives. As your small business wants to improve food insecurity by donating $500 to food banks and volunteering 50 hours at local soup kitchens, a detailed action plan should be formulated. Break up tasks per quarter as follows:

Q1 (Jan-March):

  1. Set up a branded profile on a social impact platform: include a logo, headers, call-to-action buttons, and your mission statement.
  2. Encourage internal use of a social impact platform.
  3. Find 3 food banks to donate to and find 2 volunteer opportunities at local soup kitchens. Then, reach out to these 5 causes through email or phone. 
  4. Invite stakeholders (your customers and investors) to follow your social impact profile.

Q2 (April-June):

  1. Make one donation of $150 to a food bank and organize one company-wide volunteer opportunity at a soup kitchen.
  2. Send employees other CSR opportunities (found within the platform) that they can participate in at an individual level.
  3. Conduct a mid-way check-in on SMART goals.
  4. Share social impact: post photos/videos taken from your company-wide volunteer day and create a featured post on each cause you have partnered with.

Share social impact

One of the best ways to spread awareness about your small businesses’ CSR program is to share your milestones using a social impact platform. Similar to any social media channel, a social impact platform has a dedicated activity feed where your company can share compelling posts about what you and your employees are doing to move the needle on social change. The difference? Each post on a social activity feed is solely focused on social responsibility rather than being swallowed in a sea of other lifestyle and current event posts that Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook typically present.

Social activity feed to share CSR initiatives

 Q3 (July-Sept):

  1. Carry out remaining CSR efforts: make two donations to food banks for $350 total and execute one company-wide volunteer day at a soup kitchen.
  2. Share social impact: post photos and videos from your company-wide volunteer day and re-post content from employees’ individual community outreach initiatives.
  3. Garner employee feedback to better understand how engaged your employees are with the platform.

Q4 (Oct-Dec):

  1. Recognize employees’ achievements with a year-end company gala or celebration dinner. 
  2. Share social impact: post photos from your company-wide gala or dinner to recognize and appreciate the assistance of your employees.
  3. Measure year-end goals.


Measure year-end goals

At the end of Q4, take the time to look back and measure your progress against the SMART goals you initially set out to achieve. In this example, the two goals were to donate $500 to local food banks and volunteer 50 hours at local soup kitchens. 

One of the key features of a social impact platform is the real-time metrics dashboard. Every volunteer hour or donation made by any employee (to any of the causes supported through the platform) is automatically added to your metrics dashboard. As your social responsibility efforts evolve throughout the year, your metrics dashboard will update to always reflect your progress.

Therefore, take a look at the dashboard to see your progress. The image below is of a real-time metrics dashboard that tells your small business:

  1. You partnered with 5 causes.
  2. Had 35 employees who participated in your CSR program (through volunteering and donating to the 5 partnered causes).
  3. Raised $1,000 globally (which included the $500 in corporate donations and an extra $500 given by your employees to the 5 partnered causes).
  4. Executed 60 volunteer hours (total hours accumulated by your employees from the two company-wide volunteer days at soup kitchens).

By looking at these metrics above, you can quickly see that your CSR goals have been met (and exceeded). To see the full action plan for how your small business can start a CSR program, visit: Everything Your Organization Needs To Know About Starting A CSR Program.

From building stronger relationships with your employees to becoming a social change leader within your community, there are lots of reasons for your small business to embrace corporate social responsibility. Providing a distinctive, durable, and reliable product or service alone won’t suffice in a competitive market; your small business must strive to be socially conscious and participate in a corporate social responsibility program that verifies its claim.

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