Good for Business – don’t miss out on the win-win of corporate social responsibility
It’s nice to be nice: giving up a seat for someone on a train, pointing a tourist in the right direction, that sort of thing.
For businesses, though, it’s not only nice to be nice; it’s a quality that greatly influences how your company is viewed, the talent it attracts and the cost-savings it can make.
If that sounds cynical, it shouldn’t. The truth is corporate social responsibility (CSR) – an admittedly clinical, sinister-sounding banner in itself – is a win-win, and it’s a pursuit that enterprises of all sizes and sectors should take seriously.
Here, we look at ways businesses can do their bit for communities, the environment and the wider world. We also see how these socially responsible enterprises can benefit from their efforts.
Ready? OK. Let’s do some good.
The value of volunteering
Every workplace is rammed to the rafters with skilled people. Encouraging colleagues to take on volunteer work rewards their skills and your business. It’s something the world’s largest companies swear by.
For smaller outfits in particular, time is a challenge – everyone knows that – but even a few paid hours across the monthly rota quickly add up.
For bosses, a volunteering drive is also a great way of unearthing skills and talents you didn’t know your team could offer. That can lead to promotions and new responsibilities: fantastic for morale – and for CVs. Visit the volunteering page at gov.uk for links to specialist organisations and portals.
A twist on volunteering is to offer workplace skills to the local community. Lots of specialist knowledge and experience can significantly help out a local charity or welfare organisation.
Examples of expertise businesses typically offer include:
· Basic accounting services
· Interview skills training
· Business analysis
· Legal help
…and passing on knowledge
Of course, empowering people to go on and do their own books, or create their own websites, is an even better idea. One way to do this is to offer workshop sessions. Not always practical of course, so another option is to create online lessons via YouTube. Businesses large and small offer tips and tuition this way, and it earns them great appreciation. That can quickly translate into great loyalty. Here’s an example of a tutorial from a big player – PC World.
Timing is everything
If you’re looking at going down the face-to-face route though, do guard against being overwhelmed.
It’s important to set limits from the get-go. A couple of hours a week might be fine, but you don’t want your good deeds to compromise your regular role. Managing expectations like this also ensures everyone knows what they can expect from the project.
A word about sponsoring
A proven way to stir up publicity and help great causes, sponsorship is one output of CSR that can place your organisation at the heart of its community.
When sponsoring, have a think about what your sponsorship will say about your brand.
Sporty? Local youth teams are always looking for backing, and this kind of sponsorship is highly visible.
Prefer something more academic? Why not sponsor a college or university student at home or overseas? Sponsoring facilities – a playpark, say, or a school lab – is an option too.
Sponsorship is powerful, and the good news is that it’s scalable too: you don’t need – and you shouldn’t – overreach. Smaller businesses can sponsor, for example, one person on a fun-run and still make a significant splash.
Public-facing business? Sometimes the oldest, simplest ideas are the best.
Even in the world of online and text donating, a trusty collecting can on a counter, or by the till, remains one easy way to support a good cause. Both local and national charities will happily supply an official can, and they’ll arrange for its collection too.
Practice makes perfect
Changing working practices can be as much a part of your CSR drive as any of the methods we’ve touched on above. One area where businesses can show responsibility is via their use of resources.
In the office, this might mean using recycled paper products as much as possible – or cutting down on paper via better use of email and electronic documents/filing.
At the very least, recycling – of paper, cartridges, packaging, batteries, cans and bottles – is something businesses of all sizes should be doing. Find practical tips and advice here.
We do a lot for charity – but we don’t like to talk about it…
This exclusively British reserve really needs to be reversed. For your business’ sake, and for the sake of the organisations you’re supporting.
If you’re doing good in the community: remove your light from beneath the bushel, allow it to shine, and…
…let people know.
Not only does it give your business some well-deserved props, it might encourage your customers, suppliers and stakeholders to ramp up their CSR efforts too.
So blog about it, get it out there on social media, mention it at meetings and shout about it internally too – in emails, newsletters and on noticeboards. If you’ve kitted out your entire office/shop/factory/warehouse with energy-efficient lightbulbs, let’s hear all about it.
A secret: nice, thoughtful people like doing business with other nice, thoughtful people. And being less bashful also leads to even more publicity and support for the charity or cause in question.
Take a drive
Why not help a local charity shop stock up by organising a workplace drive for unwanted items?
A roundup of some benefits CSR can bring your business
On the environmental front using less ‘stuff’ – reams of paper, ink, lightbulbs – saves cash at the suppliers. There’s also less for your business to fork out when it comes to disposal.
An enhanced reputation
By publicising your CSR activities you can attract more customers and suppliers. Why? Because doing business with a responsible company reflects well also on those engaging with you.
A finger on the pulse
Issues like responsible sourcing of materials, eco-friendly disposal and giving back to the community are increasingly on customers’ agendas – both on the high street and out in the B2B arena.
Local authorities love responsible businesses. If you’re making the effort to reduce your environmental impact there’s a great chance you’ll also be meeting rules and regulations.
Just like customers and suppliers love dealing with socially aware enterprises, the talent that’s out there loves working with them. Be the business that’s known for being a great bunch of people. You’ll find a great bunch of people will be keen to do a job for you.
Making a difference
Businesses find themselves in a powerful position in their communities It might sound gushy, but when all’s said and done, using that power to make a difference should be the endgame for your CSR efforts.
Now be good to yourself too
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