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 workforce, or improve charitable giving efforts, focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR) program is key for small businesses who want to succeed in today’s competitive environment.
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 a corporate social responsibility program for small businesses and outlines some benefits you can experience when you start making CSR a priority.
What does a CSR program entail?
It doesn’t matter how large or small a business is. Regardless of the company’s size, an effective corporate social responsibility program should include these key characteristics:
Start by outlining what areas of corporate social responsibility your small business wants to accomplish (social, environmental, or economic). Stick to the SMART model when setting initiatives, as anything you set out to do should be:
For example, your company might want to improve food insecurity in your local community over the next year. This initiative meets all the above criteria, making it the right objective to champion.
Detailed action plans
Alongside SMART initiatives, you should also have a detailed action plan for how your business will achieve what you outlined.
Using the example above of wanting to improve food security in your local community, now is the time to lay out a specific action plan for how you will make this happen.
For instance, you might partner with local nonprofits to get involved in their planned events or host some of your own (on their behalf). This could include working with a nonprofit to collect non-perishable food items or hosting a canned food drive at your office.
Promoting your small business’s CSR program can be tricky. On the one hand, you don’t want to seem like you’re bragging or being self-serving. On the other hand, you also want to ensure your community and stakeholders know what you’re doing and the reasoning behind your social good efforts.
One of the best ways to market your program appropriately is to get your employees involved as ambassadors. When your employees share the good they are doing on their own social media accounts, it has a profound impact.
In order to demonstrate your company’s good works while also enabling your employees to share their personal impact on an individual profile, consider registering for a social impact platform.
In the same way that popular social media networks display users’ stories and experiences in one centralized feed, a social impact platform does the equivalent, with a focus on CSR content.
The best CSR programs involve careful monitoring. For every SMART goal you set, make sure it can be measured and tracked over time.
If you have set out to become more carbon-neutral, what percentage of carbon reductions have you made since you began? If you aimed to improve your charitable giving, how much have you donated to charities to date?
The more information you collect and monitor, the easier it will be for you to determine how your business is doing and whether you are approaching your goals.
Your CSR program will not be perfect right after it’s launched. Don’t let that be a barrier to entry or deter you from sticking with it. After all, a commitment to ongoing improvement is essential for small businesses that want to see long-term results.
To improve your CSR program, collect feedback from your employees and any charities, nonprofits, or organizations you’re serving. Then, utilize that feedback to improve your program and maximize its effectiveness.
Why should small businesses embrace corporate 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:
Involve more 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—allowing them to support 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.
Increase employee engagement and 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.
Engaged employees are also less likely to change employers and work for one of your competitors. A decreased employee turnover saves you from having to invest more money in the recruiting and hiring 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 a larger competitor, it helps to showcase your purpose and mission.
A CSR program with clear objectives, concrete actions, and transparent results will engage your audience’s emotions, making them remember and buy from you.
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 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.
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.
The Power Of CSR & Small Businesses
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 claims.