When it comes to implementing an effective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy, small business leaders can often feel overwhelmed.
However, CSR activity shouldn’t be reserved just for the big players. Small businesses can also enjoy the benefits a good CSR program can bring.
Studies show in order to help attract and retain a skilled, loyal workforce, organisations should aim for a long-term CSR strategy.
Other research reveals employees who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are more likely to feel loyalty to their employer and are nearly twice as satisfied with their career progression.
You don’t have to have to be a huge corporation to make a significant positive impact on society and take advantage of the benefits a CSR strategy can bring to your business.
Here are 5 tips for how small businesses can implement a successful CSR program that drives real change.
1. Collaborate on your cause
Smaller organisations will be able to involve employees when choosing the charities or community projects your business supports each year.
This is your key advantage over larger businesses, allowing employees to choose causes close to their hearts which in turn can increase engagement.
These need not be large scale projects. Smaller initiatives such as in-house fundraising, bake sales or volunteering in the community can have a big impact on workplace morale.
Think about the USP of your business and the products and services you provide. Is there a natural link between your expertise and volunteering opportunities?
For example, a shoe retailer could donate shoes to an underprivileged country – like TOMS has been doing for years.
2. Make it part of your day-to-day
CSR needs to be more than an out-of-date message, buried on your company website, to remain front of mind for employees. Make sure you regularly communicate your strategy and policies, such as lift-shares or rigorous recycling programmes, across a variety of communication channels.
Employees will be more aware of the current initiatives on offer and have a greater understanding of their long-term benefits.
For example, at Express, it is our mission to be ethically responsible for the various packaging and coffee products we provide our customers each week. As such, we have recycling facilities across our offices and depots and widely encourage their use across the business.
If you are short on resources to participate in social responsibility programs, concentrate on activities that lend themselves well to the time you have available and your expertise.
This includes specific skills you can put to work across the company, as well as volunteering activities outside of the company. These skills are worth their weight in gold, providing programs and other organisations precise abilities they would not otherwise be able to tap into.
3. Communication is key
Employees need to be informed of the collective impact their CSR contribution has.
For example, 80% of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of the community investment policies, but this falls to 44% with employees who do not volunteer.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to report on statistics such as how many employees volunteered and for how many hours. You should also convey its long-term social impact – for example;
‘The amount of money raised from a charity event will pay for a hundred food parcels to be sent to children who would not otherwise receive nutritious meals’.
Internal feedback has a particularly strong impact in small organisations as word of mouth travels more quickly around the office and will go a long way in encouraging others to get involved in future projects.
Channels such as social media and internal networks need to be utilised, to make these updates easily accessible. Visuals work well too, such as posters around the office showing how employee support has made a real difference.
4. Building a stronger team
CSR activities give employees a chance to meet and partner with people outside their usual teams. This promotes a greater sense of camaraderie and unity among employees as they work on a shared mission towards a common goal.
Not only can CSR help build strong internal teams, it can be a great opportunity to partner with clients and local businesses to cultivate relationships.
During our recent Salvation Army charity project, Express worked in partnership with Metro Bank’s COO, helping to strengthen ongoing client relations and set up more potential charity partnerships.
This, in turn, should benefit our workplace culture through increased employee morale, productivity and cohesiveness.
5. Enhancing recruitment
According to a study by PWC (pdf), 86% of millennial employees would consider leaving a company if its CSR values no longer matched their own.
Younger workers are attracted to businesses that have a social conscience so having a great CSR program will help you attract millennials.
Considering by 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the workplace, it is vital businesses start to embrace CSR practices to help attract and retain top talent.
At Express, we encourage our staff to volunteer and allow paid time off for those wishing to undertake charity work. We believe this contributes to our high retention rates and is one of the reasons we have been voted one of top 100 companies for graduates to work for.
Make sure to promote your company’s CSR policies and results in a visible place on your website, perhaps even on your careers page for prospective applicants to see.
Promote the relevant articles, awards, and policies, as well as posting images and videos that feature employees participating in charitable events.
As CSR becomes ever more important, businesses of all sizes must step up to the mark and start implementing good practices to secure their reputation in the eyes of customers, stakeholders, employees and future applicants.
With the right strategies in place small businesses can create exciting, cost-effective CSR strategies to attract and retain today’s top talent and which make them stand out among their bigger competitors.
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Emma Davidson, Area Retail Manager – City of London, Express.
Last updated - 19th January, 2018