What is responsible business and what does this mean for small businesses?

Corporate, social responsibility (CSR) has become increasingly important to many commercial giants as they look to boost reputations. But for many small businesses, it is something that’s always been at the very heart of what they do.

What does being a responsible business actually mean?

Being a responsible business doesn’t mean having to follow a strict set of rules and it doesn’t mean having to make headline grabbing donations as so many larger companies do. In fact, philanthropic contributions are just a small part of what it means to be responsible.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s publication “Making Good Business Sense” by Lord Holme and Richard Watts, shows that there’s much more to being ‘responsible’: “Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.

Using this definition, it’s clear that for many small businesses being responsible is simply part of what they do every single day. Yet for many, there is a real lack of acknowledgment of the good deeds being done which is something the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is keen to change.

Acknowledging CSR in the community

For Mike Cherry, Chairman of the FSB, far more needs to be done to recognise the help and benefits given to communities by small, independent businesses. He points out that small businesses aren’t just contributing to local charities and sports sponsorship, they also play a vital role in supporting people who are often overlooked, or considered vulnerable: “Smaller businesses are also disproportionately better at employing people from harder-to-reach parts of the workforce - those who have recently left military service; those who have taken time out of working because of caring responsibilities; people with disabilities; and ex-offenders seeking a new life on the straight and narrow.

But while the FSB has called for greater appreciation of SMEs, business owners themselves need to grab the opportunity to highlight the beneficial impact they have. Of course, that’s easier said than done as small business owners have a lot to deal with. Juggling admin, finances, staff and marketing against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, simply means there’s little time to celebrate the good work being done.

Tell People About Your Good Work

Simple things you can do are to list these on your website, maybe write a blog story about the work you do to support your local community, gain endorsements for your work or a testimonials and include this in the blog. Share your news on social media. Highlighting the work you do can differentiate you from your competitors and this may also attract new clients/customers who want to purchase good or services from business owners who act in a responsible manner.

Don't be shy, as small businesses we need to feel empowered to shout about our commitment to our community, so whether it is volunteering, donations, fundraising or pro-bono work make sure you tell us and your clients/customers all about what you do.

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