Can Small Businesses Afford to be Socially Responsible?

25 January 2021

Social responsibility is a business management concept that by 2021, is well and truly embedded in the corporate world (Did you know the term was first coined in 1953?). It represents a company’s commitment to sustainable growth through the consideration of its social and environmental impact.

There’s a common misconception that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is only for large enterprises, but at Social Good Connect we very much disagree. If anything, it’s even more important for small businesses to become socially responsible, as their local communities often make up a considerable proportion of their customers. 

In 2020, SMEs in the UK had a combined turnover of £2.28 trillion and were responsible for 60% of employment in the private sector. So, although large corporations mostly feel the pressure of social responsibility, it’s important to recognise that small businesses have a significant social and environmental impact too. 

Does the cost of social responsibility prevent small businesses from implementing initiatives?

Small businesses often question how they can afford to be socially responsible due to limited budgets and resources. Generally speaking, they operate a much leaner business model than large corporations, with lower profit margins and fewer employees. 

The initial costs of CSR initiatives also act as a barrier and other expenses tend to take priority. However, social responsibility is a long-term business strategy. Over time, there are many benefits to gain from funding CSR activities and eventually, it’s possible to see a return on investment. 

Why should your small business get involved with CSR?

If you’re a small business owner, you may have thought about social responsibility since starting your company. But have you explored its long-term advantages?  

  • Operating sustainably and lowering your carbon footprint can reduce business costs over time. Recycling and reducing your energy consumption can result in significant savings while reducing your environmental impact. 
  • Businesses that consider social responsibility are more attractive to investors, which means greater access to capital. Investors usually have a set of criteria that help them decide which business to invest in, and more often than not, social responsibility is a critical factor. 
  • In 2020, eight out of ten respondents in a study by IBM, state that sustainability is important to them when purchasing from a business. A better reputation means one thing, more business. Taking your community and the environment into consideration results in more consumers choosing your brand, and they will buy from you time and again. 
  • Socially responsible businesses benefit from increased employee productivity. Allowing your staff to contribute to their local community through CSR projects will make them feel proud to work for your company; they become invested in the business, and their work will reflect their passion. Plus, it will attract a larger talent pool of future employees with 64% of millennials declining opportunities from employers without a CSR strategy. 

How can small businesses implement CSR strategies on a budget?

Now we know why your small business should be socially responsible, let’s look at how it’s achievable without a large price tag. 

  • One advantage of being a small business is the opportunity to build a strong connection with communities – they’re right on your doorstep after all! Why not ask your employees to take part in fundraising events for local charities? Or can your business contribute its skills and resources to a community project? These types of activities empower your business to offer value to the community just through donating your time and expertise.
  • Where do you purchase your resources and materials? Another way of contributing to sustainable growth and reducing the impact your business has on the community is to shop local. Support your local suppliers so neighbouring businesses can grow alongside you.
  • Give your employees time off to volunteer within your community – even if it’s just a few hours! Your staff all have their own unique skills and passions, why not put them to use for good? For example, if you run a graphic design agency, you could work with a charity to create a new information brochure. Not only is employee volunteering a cost-effective method of social responsibility, but it also has lots of benefits for your business by increasing employee productivity, retention and more.
  • Think green! There’s plenty of things your business can do to decrease its environmental impact. If you complete lots of paperwork, why not utilise software to go paperless? If you have a growing fleet of vehicles, you could invest in electric or hybrid cars. Or you could consider moving to a zero-waste approach. Even simple things such as using energy-saving light bulbs, turning off your computers, and cycle to work schemes will help you lower your carbon footprint and operate more sustainably.
  • We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘honesty is the best policy’, and being truthful is at the core of social responsibility – plus it’s completely free! As a business, you have the opportunity to build trust with your customers every day; from communicating honest marketing messaging to being upfront with your customers throughout the sales process. But it doesn’t stop there – you should act with complete transparency with your employees, suppliers and distributors too. An honest approach will encourage repeat custom and happy, hardworking employees.

These are just a few small-budget initiatives that you could action to steer your business towards social responsibility. Which option will you choose?

Are you ready?

Social responsibility can help secure your business’s future by putting down roots in your local community and empowering sustainable growth. So, it’s less a question of, ‘can your small business afford to be socially responsible?’ than, ‘can you afford not to be’?

If you own a small business and are keen to become more socially responsible, get in touch with our friendly team to see how we can help, or join our mailing list to receive monthly CSR insights and tips! 

We would be delighted to work with you to implement an effective and affordable employee volunteering programme, connecting your employees with the causes they care most about. 

Written by Holly Moore

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