Corporate social responsibility is a term with which we are all becoming more and more familiar; indeed, it is frequently mentioned in our chats with great businesspeople on our ‘sofa of success’ and, as you might imagine, our charity colleagues are particularly pleased.
Many large corporations have been early adopters of the practice, but a significant number of SMEs are now seeing the great benefit to be gained from giving serious and formal thought to how their business can operate in a more sustainable fashion and how they can, in some way, shape or form, give back to the wider community.
So, what are the main benefits enjoyed by those who have a CSR plan embedded within their operation? In our opinion the initial step of re-evaluating business plans is probably the most valuable one (perhaps of most value to society in general too). A company can discover a whole range of things about the business, many things which may have been simply forgotten since the birth of the original business plan. CSR implementation leads to an evaluation of current processes and this very often leads to the identification of areas for improvement. Whilst there may be an element of cost involved at this initial stage, even the most financially conservative businesspeople generally understand that there will be an opportunity to recoup this spend in the longer term.
In addition to the ‘housekeeping wins’ gained at the beginning of the process, the most easily-identifiable benefits of a Corporate Social Responsibility scheme are:
- Better company image and customer loyalty– CSR can not only increase brand recognition but can also vastly improve public image. Customers want to do business with companies who care about their responsibilities, their interaction with society and their impact on the environment. Those who respect their consumers will encourage customer loyalty and that is the holy grail of many a brand.
- Increased employee engagement and satisfaction– It’s only natural that employees feel a greater sense of worth when they work for a company with a strong and positive public image. The CSR scheme itself creates a sense of community and bonding amongst staff, engaging them in the whole operation and encouraging positive relationships. Who needs expensive team-building away- days when the strongest teams are built from having a common, socially responsible goal?
- Interested talent and potential investors– A reputable business which genuinely demonstrates dedication to improving the environment or the lives of others is far more likely to attract the best available candidates for employment and valuable investors if, and when, the need for external investment arises.
There are some great examples out there of successful CSR schemes within the corporate environment. We all, for instance, most probably know about the philanthropic exploits of Microsoft, the ethical and welfare credentials of Lush and the environmental improvements initiated by Unilever in reducing the size of deodorant cans. What we are now starting to see are smaller, local plans bearing fruit, not only for local charities and communities but also for our wider society as a whole. At a time when public sector budgets are being cut and social services are being pared down to the bare minimum, we think the timing of the Corporate Social Responsibility revolution couldn’t have been better.