Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is something we might associate primarily with big organisations
But having a social conscience has nothing to do with size, and adopting a CSR strategy can benefit even very small businesses.
There are many definitions of what CSR is, but put simply its’ about taking a responsible attitude to the way you do business, and rather than focusing just on making profits, thinking about what your business can do to benefit the community you work in, and society generally.
In reality, what that means is up to you, and how you choose to practice CSR will be informed by what you, your staff, customers and other stakeholders in your business care about.
Why does CSR matter?
Perhaps the best way to answer this is by asking another question: What kind of company would you rather do business with – one that focuses purely on maximising its profits, or one that – as well as making money for those people who work for it, chooses to try and make a difference to society? Hopefully, as a caring, compassionate, responsible business owner, you won’t need convincing that giving something back is a good thing – but there are also sound commercial reasons for introducing CSR:
To create a differential
As consumers, whatever kind of product or service we’re buying, our purchase decision will be based on getting the best value and quality for our money. CSR can help reduce price sensitivity by introducing an emotional differentiator.
To attract more clients
When clients understand that your business is not driven purely by sales, and have an appreciation of what matters to you, they’re far more likely to buy into your business and support you with their custom.
To attract like-minded staff
Your CSR activity will attract employees who share your goals. Being part of an organisation that exists not solely to make money, but also to make a difference, will ensure a motivated and engaged workforce.
What will your CSR strategy look like?
As mentioned, CSR can encompass an almost infinite number of activities, and how you choose to adopt it will be down to personal choice. It may be influenced by the services you provide or the products you sell, your location, your personal story, or any number of factors. Whatever it is though, it needs to be something you and those around you feel passionate about.
At Inca, we’ve chosen to focus our CSR initiatives on three key areas that are important to us:
1. Where we work
Small businesses have very close connections with the community in which they’re based. The clients they serve, the staff they employ and the suppliers they use will often be local, so that the success of the business and of the community are interdependent. Recognising the contribution of our local community, each year we set aside 5% of our pre-tax profits, donating 1% to each of four local charities nominated by our staff, and using the remaining 1% to support ad hoc charitable activity undertaken by our staff or clients.
2. The world we live in
Of course, community means global as well as local, and since June 2013, we’ve been helping reduce child deaths from malaria in Kenya by donating money to purchase mosquito nets. We pledge to buy a net for every new client we sign up and we’re well on course to exceed our goal of 250 nets by 2020.
Malaria is the biggest killer of children under 5 years old in Kenya. By supporting this great cause we’re also helping highlight the fact that by choosing to work with Inca, a client is improving their chance of business survival.
3. Who we work with – our clients
All businesses need clients, so it makes sense to look after them. When a business owner invests in working with us, we reciprocate by providing workshops to help them develop their business skills, and networking events where they can meet like-minded professionals and explore mutual opportunities. For us, ploughing back our time and energy into helping our clients grow and flourish impacts positively on our own business as well as the wider community.
Whatever CSR activity you choose to undertake, it will probably look very different to ours, but the outcomes will be the same – you’ll make a genuine difference to things you care about, feel a real sense of purpose in your team – and your business will benefit too!