Corporate Social Responsibility is largely associated with big companies. This is an obvious association since they are more high profile, attract more media attention, and have more resources to devote to CSR and employee engagement activities.
But does that mean that smaller and midsize businesses shouldn’t engage in CSR? The answer is a resounding NO. In fact, smaller companies are driven by the same motivations such as attracting and retaining dedicated employees, protecting their brand and interests, being a good neighbor, and giving back to local communities. It is the right thing to do and is an expectation of both consumers and employees.
While the motivation and importance is the same for both large and small companies, the implementation does vary greatly. Size doesn’t matter in whether a business should engage in CSR, but the difference is in how they engage. It’s not a one size fits all approach.
While the scale might be different here are three tips to get you started:
1. Start small. Allow the program to grow over time.
Like large companies, it is important to do something, but it doesn’t have to be a full blown program like you would see in a larger company. Most of the time, small businesses identify some cause or focus areas and focus their efforts around them. Employee giving and volunteering form the foundation of many small business CSR efforts.
2. Listen to and involve employees.
Employees are the greatest resource a company can offer to address needs in local communities. Let them have a voice in determining the focus, the causes, and how they want to engage. They will appreciate being asked and providing input.
3. Communicate and promote the program.
It is important to promote the program internally to employees so that they know what is being offered and how they can get involved. Make it easy for employees to engage.
The other part of communication is to talk externally about what the company is doing. For years, companies were reluctant to talk about their good works. They were afraid it would come off as bragging. That day is gone. It is important to tell your own story and help spread the message. Employees want to see it, consumers expect it, and your nonprofit partners will benefit from the publicity.
Now that you’re convinced that you need to do something but aren’t sure where to start, here are some basic ideas that can be easily implemented at your small business. The good news is that most of these don’t require a lot of financial resources and are designed to get support and leverage employee involvement.
- Encourage employees to adopt basic environmentally friendly policies like implementing a recycling program, turning off the lights, and printing less.
- Hold onsite volunteer activities/events that don’t require employees to leave work. Some companies hold a holiday drive or back to school drive and encourage employees to make contributions and then donate the collected goods to a local school or nonprofit organization. Another example is that you might consider making “care kits” with shampoo, toothbrushes, combs, etc. to donate to a homeless shelter or collect grocery coupons and give to a local food bank.
- Support and reward employees in their personal volunteer activities. Our company, Good Done Great, gives each employee two hours per month of paid time off to volunteer within our selected focus areas. In addition, the company gives a $250 grant each quarter to a nonprofit in recognition of employees who have volunteered the most hours on their own time.
- Adopt a nonprofit organization that addresses a cause or need that is important to the company and its employees. Make small financial grants, and identify opportunities to engage employees as volunteers. Set a limit to the number of nonprofit organizations you will support.
- Hold a company-wide Day of Service. Allow employees to engage with their leaders and peers in a fun volunteer project. Examples include cleaning a park, refurbishing a playground, or creating a new walking trail at a nature center or park.
- Match donations from employees to causes that have been identified or to their own individual passions and charitable interests.
- Hold a Hackathon where employees from different departments come together to brainstorm a solution for a problem presented by a local nonprofit.
- Collaborate with another business that already has a program up and running. Smaller businesses in the same industry are much more likely to cooperate with one another on a CSR initiative unlike their larger counterparts. Small businesses either through the local Chamber of Commerce, local branches of associations, employee resource groups, and other business associations.
- Hold fun and employee networking in high regard. There are ways to incorporate fun into the workday, and the benefits that doing so can have on employee engagement levels within your organization are countless. I worked for a small business where every Monday the company would provide lunch to its employees. It was a great opportunity to be with peers and to learn from each other. It was also a great way for employees to see the company doing something for them.
CSR doesn’t have to be all fireworks and big world-changing initiatives. Companies can start small and still experience the benefits and rewards that will come. One size doesn’t fit all, but there is a fit for all size companies.