Corporate Social Responsibility: What Your Small Business Needs to Know

Ever wish your small business could do more for the community? Maybe you volunteer as a group or have a favorite cause, but you want to take that work a step further.

A corporate social responsibility (CSR) program could be what your company needs to work toward a community mission alongside your business mission. These programs are increasingly becoming a staple of business transparency efforts; many big companies like Patagonia, Warby Parker, and Ben & Jerry’s have corporate responsibility programs for causes that align with their business missions.

SCORE’s latest infographic highlights the power of CSR programs in building strong businesses with vision.

CSR beyond boosting sales

Corporate responsibility can do a lot to attract customers. Fifty-five percent of consumers said they are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies.

Meanwhile, a CSR program can help drive employee recruitment. Seventy-nine percent of millennials — the largest generational group in the nation — said they consider corporate responsibility when deciding where to work. And 83 percent of millennials said they would be more loyal to a company with a CSR program, according to a recent employee engagement study by Cone Communications.

How to Get Started

A variety of business structures support CSR programs, from nonprofits, benefit corporations and cooperatives to traditional C corps.

CSR programs can support a variety of causes ranging from education, environmental efforts, economic development, youth services, disaster relief, or arts and culture. Almost two-thirds of mid-sized companies focus their CSR programs within their home state, and most work with between one and five nonprofits to focus their local initiatives.

To prepare to launch your own CSR program, do the following:

  • Choose a direction: A CSR program may focus on people, the environment or both. Choose a cause that your founders or staff are passionate about — one that also aligns somehow with your business mission.

For example, if your small business is a manufacturing facility, you may choose to strive to reduce environmental waste. Run a restaurant? You may choose to source your ingredients from local or sustainable sources. A retail shop may choose to focus on working with vendors who provide safe job opportunities for assemblers.

The choice is yours! Start with one cause at a time as you discover the challenges and benefits of focusing on a particular issue.

  • Communicate with your team: Staff feedback will be crucial for the success of your CSR program. Employees who work with vendors or spend time with clients in the community may be best in tune with how your company can make improvements to its systems, both for the benefit of your business and the benefit of your chosen cause.

Solicit feedback regularly and invite employees to share their thoughts and ideas.

  • Communicate with your customers: Since customers want to do business with companies who have strong social programs, make plans to share your progress. You may not choose to release a regular CSR report in your first few months or dedicate a page of your website to your efforts immediately while you’re testing options.

Instead, share your CSR wins on social media, in your email newsletter, or with clients face to face. Sharing your progress with your customers and in networking circles may provide opportunities to do even more for your chosen cause!

Want your small business to shine for a cause you care about? Work with a SCORE mentor to create a CSR program that’s perfect for your company.


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