Small businesses are one of the most important stakeholders in our communities. Their familiar presence and strong roots in a neighbourhood mean that any Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative they adopt can significantly impact the people in the area or anyone who interacts with these businesses.
Small businesses can adopt a wide range of CSR initiatives to help the environment, improve their community, and give back to those who need it most. Besides, CSR practices also help develop a reputation for being socially responsible, which customers appreciate. If you’re unsure why CSR matters for your business, read our blog post here to find out why!
As a small business owner, you’re already looking for ways to make your business more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The good news is that implementing CSR practices is not as hard as it sounds! Here are five steps small businesses can take to start implementing CSR practices today:
- Ask yourself why
If you feel a CSR strategy is important for your business but aren’t sure why yet, ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve by implementing these practices, or how they will benefit your customers or employees. Once you’ve figured out what benefits they will bring into their lives, come up with some ways that might help them see those benefits more clearly—this will make them more likely to buy into them!
It’s also worth noting that while pragmatic reasons such as improving your bottom line and increasing your brand presence are good, the main goal of CSR isn’t really to do all these. Instead, it’s to make a difference to the community you serve, beyond just selling products or services to them!
- Start with a plan
An excellent way to start is to create a CSR action plan that outlines what impact you want your company to achieve and how you envision the program will look like in 5 years. This will help you stay focused on what’s essential for your business and keep you from getting distracted by other things.
Research thoroughly to assess what needs in the community you can help to meet and whether they align with your business values. It is also helpful to survey your customers and employees on what type of social impact work is meaningful to them. As a small business, your impact is most immediate in a neighbourhood. You don’t have to look very far to start something! While planning, ensure that you can implement initiatives your team will support and execute.
- Communicate expectations clearly to all stakeholders, and make them measurable
Starting a great CSR program requires setting clear goals for what you hope to achieve.
If you are partnering with an organisation, you should conduct a needs assessment of the organisation. That way, you know what problems your CSR initiative tackles and how you support your choice of organisation. Then, once you’ve decided on a few ideas for implementation into your business model, set up a way to evaluate your impact.
Measuring impact does not have to be overly complex. If, for instance, you’ve decided to support the Plant a tree programme in Singapore by donating 5 cents of every purchase from your shop, then your measurement can be as straightforward as looking at how many people are willing to donate.
Measurements and clear guidelines are essential, as it helps you to assess whether the CSR initiative you’ve begun has any buy-in from your employees and consumers. It might also help to clearly state your goals, just like Lina’s cafe in Singapore has done. As a cafe that aims to raise autism awareness, you can see its mission clearly on its website.
There isn’t a one-size fits all CSR initiative, so being clear about the goals of your initiative and why you want to implement it will help align everyone involved!
- Talk to your employees
Ultimately, you might not be at your shop every day, so your employees are your frontliners in getting customers to support any CSR initiative you’ve introduced. First, however, your employees must feel they are making a difference, so they will also convey the message to convince others to support the business’ endeavours.
Ensure all of your employees understand the importance of these practices in their roles at work. This way, they’ll know what they’re supposed to do, and feel they have ownership over their jobs by being part of something bigger than themselves.
Some companies, such as UOB Bank and Keppel Corporation, target their CSR programs in-house by allowing employees to take time off to volunteer. Others structure their team bonding programs as social outreach, taking time to help needy charities. According to Harvard Business Review, these programs improve employee engagement and boost productivity. However, these benefits are not immediately apparent to employees with CSR initiatives such as paid volunteer time. Therefore, you or your human resource team should take the first step in highlighting how CSR initiatives can allow employees to widen their network, and gain new skills.
- It starts with your supply chain
Finally, if you’re stuck for ideas on how best to serve your community, you can always look at how you make your products or carry out your services.
Consider making changes to your supply chain, so it’s more sustainable—for example, using recyclable materials instead of plastics or paper products made from trees (like napkins). This will help reduce waste and increase efficiency while showing customers that you care about their health and well-being by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals or toxins (which can be present in non-recyclable materials).
KFC’s no-straw movement in 2018 is a brilliant example of how the business has relooked its food packaging, striving for a more sustainable future by revamping how they present its food. First, no straws, then paper boxes to reusable packaging – these are small, simple, but powerful ways that the company strives toward environmental goals.
Overall, implementing CSR practices in your small business can be as simple as making sure you recycle properly, or helping out with a local organisation focused on giving back to local youth. In addition, consider getting involved with an organisation like World Vision, which provides tools and resources for small businesses looking to implement CSR practices.
We hope that this article has inspired you and your business to start taking positive action today!
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