CSR for SMEs
CSR for SMEs can be part of the everyday running of your business. Here’s how.
When I started in business over 30 years ago, one of the first things I did was help organise a Manchester charity event raising funds for a much-needed cause. I was delighted to offer my skill set to help the charity. Ever since, CSR activity has been an important part of my business. I took the opportunity to use my contacts and expertise, which, given that my company designs and produces events for clients in the UK and around the world, seemed the most natural thing to do. For SMEs linking up with a charity or implementing a CSR policy, it can be a daunting prospect. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s a myth that giving back to your local community, or a cause close to your heart, takes big chunks of time out of the business. We all know that there are endless pressures on SMEs. It’s a constant balancing act of time and resources, all focussed on ensuring customers are happy. A commitment to developing a CSR policy doesn’t require huge time investment.
The next myth – you need you have huge budgets to donate or large teams to make a difference. Not true. The key is to work out what and how your specific company can give back, no matter how large or small, and stick to it.
Firstly, decide on a CSR programme that makes sense for your business, setting yourself an achievable goal. Think about what areas you are interested in and match your company ethos. It could be the environment, education, recycling, nature or health. If it’s a charitable aim, then decide on the specific charity that you want to donate to and how much you want to raise. It doesn’t always have to be a monetary donation. Lots of charities are also looking for time and expertise – ‘sweat equity’ as our US counterparts would say.
Start this in a small way. Try releasing a staff member to volunteer at a charity for the day. Then, as time allows, make it a team activity. We once went to help a charity sell Christmas cards for a day. It was a brilliant way of focussing the team and working together in a completely different environment. So many untapped skills came to the fore! Consider the easy changes. When entertaining clients, choose to do this at charitable events rather than dinner at a restaurant. Finding small ways to help, that don’t adversely affect the running of your business, is the key for managing CSR for SMEs
Measure the activity and build on it year after year. Everything counts.
Occasionally, because we can, we go all out for a much bigger contribution that channels my team’s creative and organisational skills. For example, TLC is producing one of the biggest charity events that Manchester has seen in September. Gary Barlow joins forces with Gary Neville to raise funds for Child Bereavement UK and Red Sea Pedestrians. I have high expectations that we can make a considerable donation to these two fantastic charities, from which people in the north west will benefit.
A company doesn’t always have to have a charitable goal though. Giving time to speak at school careers days has been part of my CSR plans for years. I love to share my story, and I hope, it offers some inspiration (they seem to like it!). I lecture annually at MMU and sit on the Business and Enterprise Advisory Board at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.
Happily, I have been a guest speaker at many young enterprise initiatives and was a NW fundraising committee member for the Princes Trust for many years. Many of these opportunities have brought me face to face with excellent business contacts. They have also allowed me to give some of my experience back to support young people in the north west. A double win for a busy SME!
Always ensure that you celebrate success. When all the company or one member of staff has spent a day helping clear up a local park, or riverbank, or helped out for half a day at a local charity shop, then celebrate it with your team and share the experience and key learnings. A programme of CSR for SMEs can reap huge rewards in terms of staff motivation and staff retention, as well as reinvesting valuable time and energy into local communities. Remember, starting small is not a crime. Consider it your foundation for the future.
If you have found my thoughts on CSR for SMEs – check this out this business advice on making your conference or meeting interactive