Why Small Businesses Need CSR

By |2017-12-13T16:03:16+00:00December 13th, 2017|

Small businesses need CSR! Are you eager to improve your fortunes? Do you seek to expand market share, attract bright new recruits, or lure investors?  Would you like to do all of that AND bring hope to others?

(If the answer is “Yes!”, then keep reading)

So why aren’t you investing in a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy that aligns with your business goals and benefits your communities? Businesses of all sizes are recognizing that robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are fundamental to success, as well as to the health and welfare of those around us.

The data is compelling

In 2012, a Cone Communications/Omnicom Group survey found the following:

  • 86% of consumers are more likely to trust a company that reports its CSR results.
  • 82% of consumers are more likely to buy a product that demonstrates a brand’s CSR commitments.

Then in 2017, Cone followed up with this:

  • 63% of Americans are hopeful businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change moving forward, in the absence of government regulation.
  • 87% will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.
  • 76% will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

On top of that, in 2017, CSR Matters’ Steve Greenhalgh was the principle author of the America’s Charities 2017 Snapshot study that found like-minded results:

  • 60% of respondents want to work for companies where the culture supports giving and volunteering.
  • 71% want to work for employers who have missions and values that align with their own personal values.

Convinced? We hope so. Cone Communications’ EVP Jonathan Yohannan’s 2012 conclusion is just as relevant today:

Purpose is no longer enough and successful campaigns must demonstrate return for business, brand, and society. ‘Proving purpose’ is the new mantra for effective CSR.

CSR or Bust

Not so very long ago “corporate social responsibility” wasn’t even a “thing”. Big brands did their part by cutting a check for, say, a high-profile disaster relief effort; provided financial or in-kind support for community activities; office and plant efficiencies were simply a matter of expense management when times were tough; and so on.

Boy have times changed. Today, consumers are fully in charge of if, when, and how brands are engaged … and most only want to buy from companies with a demonstrated habit of caring. Millennials and other younger types are eager to work for companies with a strong sense of social responsibility – corporate social responsibility – and prospective business partners, Board members, and other brand stakeholders often are as focused on a company’s philanthropic or sustainability efforts as its bottom line.

The result: Big, visible brands (aka the Fortune 500) have been required to:

  1. Develop robust, highly visible CSR programs that show they care;
  2. Demonstrate their commitment to community, sustainability, and philanthropy; and
  3. Give their employees outlets for their own philanthropic-minded interests.
The good news

Small and mid-sized businesses already are starting to emulate their larger counterparts in one important way: by creating the kinds of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that set them apart from their competition, attract top-notch talent, and publicly demonstrate their commitment to their employees, communities, sustainability, and more. Much more.

But for every small or mid-sized business adding a CSR program to its operational mix, there are many others that know they want to launch a program of their own, or take an existing program to the next level, but they are unsure what’s involved.

To help, CSR Matters offers a quick tool – the CSR Continuum – to guide smaller businesses through the CSR process. The CSR Continuum show you the full picture of what’s possible, while helping you to put your current efforts into the larger context … from those early, tentative forays into CSR waters (basically, HR-sponsored benefits programs), all the way to full-blown, multifaceted, corporate and employee engagement (Corporate Citizenship).

Small businesses need CSR

Small businesses need CSR. So do mid-sized businesses. They need to invest in CSR programs for the good of their employees, for the good of their communities, and to help ensure their very success.

Fortune 500 companies may have paved the way to CSR and Corporate Citizenship, but there remains a lot of work to be done … and a lot of opportunity to be had.

This point was driven home for us recently when we were asked to help Concept Plus LLC, a certified small business government contractor, evaluate its fledgling CSR program within the context of a rapidly evolving government contracting mindset. Mike Green, a Concept Plus Director, explained:

Community involvement has become part of the federal government bid process. CSR isn’t just important – it represents hope. And we want to demonstrate that we are good corporate citizens.

Bringing it home

CSR is quickly becoming – correction, ‘has become’ – a corporate must and not just for the Fortune 500. The buying public, corporate partners, the media, stakeholders, hiring recruits and employees are all expecting much, more from companies of every size, shape, and sophistication.

Got questions? CSR Matters would like to help.

About the Author:

A Principal at CSR Matters, Gary has 25+ years of experience working in Corporate Social Responsibility, including nonprofits, software development and the financial services industries. "It's a labor of love. I have a number of professional interests, and they all intersect with CSR." Over the past several years, he has been actively involved in the acquisition, growth and consolidation of a number of companies in the CSR space, including AmeriGives, Good Done Great, WPG Solutions, and Dexterity Ventures, plus donor advised funds DonateWell and Place2Give. Gary's prior experience includes leadership positions with Bank of America, United Way and KindMark. To learn more about the breadth and depth of Gary's operational, financial and executive experience, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/gpfcarr/.