“I’m too small for CSR!” – How SMEs can benefit from sustainability and social impact actions
As businesses across Europe start to slowly go back to the so called new normal, we’d like to challenge you and ask: what if we went forward instead? According to a recent Forbes article, businesses that embrace CSR and care about sustainability and social impact are more likely to survive this crisis, because they seem to have hacked what it means to be in business in the 21st century.
So, what does it mean?
Being a strong business today – and most importantly tomorrow – means understanding what your stakeholders need and care about, rather than just looking at your shareholders’ pockets. It means valuing communities and taking conscious decisions that make sense for you as a business as well as benefiting people and the planet.
But is this true for big firms only? It’s definitively not. In fact, it is much easier for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) to act responsibly. As a small business you’re already connected to the local community. And you already represent a crucial part of the local economy and social fabric. That’s already 10 steps ahead of your multinational competitor! In all truth, most SMEs have been implementing CSR strategies for their entire existence. They just weren’t giving it a name and building a strategy around it.
Nevertheless, it’s now becoming more and more important for customers and employees to know and see that a brand is taking conscious decisions and contributing to making an impact beyond just profit. As a consequence, it’s time for you and your team to get hands on with CSR. And to make sure that sustainability and social impact drive what you do and who you are as a business.
Sounds like too much effort for not enough return? Fair enough. By the end of this article I hope to challenge you on both points: (1) too much effort and (2) not much return. So, here it is: 3 ways CSR can positively impact your business’ results.
#1 CSR brings you customers
Research shows that new consumers care about how your business interacts with communities and the planet. In fact, about 70% of Millennials claim to spend more with brands that support causes with an impact. And 81% of them expect companies to make a public commitment to do good. This means that when you act responsibly and tell your customers about it not only are you contributing to making a difference, but you’ll also get better results on those quarterly spreadsheets. How?
(1) Reputation and loyalty
When as a business you demonstrate to your community and your customers that you care about people and the environment, they will automatically recognise you as an added value to the world. As someone without whom the world would be much worse. Let’s make an example.
As part of your community engagement strategy you’ve decided to partner up with a charity that shares your goals and values.
Not sure how to go about this? Learn more on our step-by-step guide on charity partnerships for businesses.
As part of your partnership you have supported the charity in delivering IT lessons for disadvantaged young adults in the local community, allowing them to build new skills and eventually find a job. This means that thanks to your actions you have contributed in making the world a better place. And people will value that. Your reputation as a business will improve and your customers will be more loyal to you and your brand. In other words, by making social impact part of your business strategy you will not only help people that need your support, but you’ll bring home amazing results for your company as well.
(2) Competition advantage
That’s right. Being a purpose-driven business means having a competitive edge on your competitors. In fact, it comes with no surprise that 9-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause. Let’s assume for instance that I have to pick between two PR agencies and I’m not sure which one is best because they both seem highly qualified and suitable for my needs. I then find out from one of them that they have been giving back to environmental causes. 1.5% of their revenue each year goes to supporting non-profits that work to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans.
I’m like… wow, that’s amazing! As a client who cares about these causes I’d be able to make my decisions in a split second. That’s because by buying your services I would also be helping you raise more money for this cause. I’d feel we’re aligned towards something bigger than just a client-service provider relation. We now share a vision to do good.
So, think about that. Even when selling the same product or offering the same service, 90% of Millennials would choose your purpose-driven brand against your competitor. That’s a huge amount of people you could redirect to buy from you and spend with you. Hence once again, CSR does bring great results to your business performance.
#2 CSR makes your employees happier (and smarter!)
82% of young Millennials (18-24) are likely to consider CSR when deciding where to work. If your company does not have a clear CSR strategy covering all aspects from employees wellbeing to community engagement and environmental impact, it’s likely you’ll miss out on the best young talents out there. More and more people look at company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work. So it’s time for your business to ride this wave and make sure you are in a position to attract these talents.
Similarly, studies reveals that businesses committed to CSR tend to see productivity increase by 13% and staff turnover reduced by up to 50%. In fact, when people work for a company that cares about their wellbeing, that enables them to donate their time to causes with an impact and that values them as people, they’ll feel closer to the company’s goals and part of something that’s making a difference. So keep your employees happy and make sure you have a CSR strategy in place to engage them. Your business will be rewarded with amazing talents and productive people in the team.
#3 CSR makes you a better business for the world
While the reasons above are all very important points which clearly make a business case for why you should move towards social and environmental sustainability, it shouldn’t be all about that. You should not just be engaging with communities because then customers will choose your business as opposed to your competitor. You’re not supposed to reduce your environmental impact just to be on the press and enhance your reputation. You should do it because you care.
Because as a business owner, director, or manager you feel you can and should do more to make sure our planet and the people that inhabit it can thrive. If you are not authentic and genuine in what you do then rest assured that the points above will not apply to you. People (customers, employees and new talents) will see right through it.
So be authentic, create a strategy that truly matters to you and that’s in line with your broader business goals. And then go and make a difference for your community. Make this your starting point. You’ll then be able to make the world a better place while also improving your business results.
Not bad, huh?
Not sure where to start? At G.APP17 we believe in businesses that have the potential to change the world. And we help them do that. We’re here so you can easily find impactful initiatives that matter to you, your employees and communities. Find out how you can be part of the change too!