By Holly Embleton-Smith

Often known as “corporate social responsibility” in the context of multi-million dollar organizations, the concept of going above and beyond our legal requirements for ethical and accountable behavior towards the environment and our community isn’t just reserved for large enterprises.

In fact, small and mid-sized businesses are perfectly positioned to make an impact on their surroundings that can be much greater in relation to their size due to their authentic grounding in their local community and their ability to interact on a more personal level.

“Social responsibility” may conjure up images of a slightly hollow nod in the direction of proper practice for businesses wanting to be seen in a good light, or as the realm of the economically naïve. But when done well, the truth of social responsibility is quite different. It can work to underscore your business brand’s bottom line, increasing profits over time and simultaneously making positive change on a local or global scale.

Here are some ideas on how to practice enlightened self-interest by opting in to socially responsible practices in your small or mid-sized business.

Connect with Your Local Community

Take a look around at what’s happening in your local community, and find opportunities where your business might be able to pitch in and make a positive difference. All the better if it helps extend your brand reach.

Why not try…

Collaborating with like-minded businesses in your area to create initiatives that are mutually beneficial while bringing positive external change.

Give Your Employees Time and Autonomy

Not all of your steps for social responsibility have to be part of a world-changing master plan. Listen to suggestions from your employees about how they think your business should fulfill its social responsibility, which should help them feel motivated and empowered, too.

Why not try…

Having a fortnightly or monthly meeting to evaluate your progress with social responsibility and implement some new action points.

Take the Small Steps

Recycling, minimizing waste of resources, being energy conscious and many other small gestures of consciousness and responsibility can all make a difference and engender an office culture of positivity and social and environmental awareness.

Why not try…

A team building morning where you and your employees buy and repair second hand bicycles that you can ride to work, or use for running errands during the work day. Add the company logo for some convenient advertising.

Offer Expertise If You Can’t Offer Money

Cash flow is often tricky if your business isn’t yet well established, or you’re going through a rocky patch. But money isn’t the only resource you have to offer. Try using your skill and expertise to contribute to your community, or further afield.

Why not try…

Investing some time in an initiative like Grow Movement, which allows you to empower African entrepreneurs with business skills through frequent skype calls to provide mentorship and advice.

Make It Intrinsic

Social responsibility doesn’t have to be something that SMEs patch on to their existing modus operandi. It can be something that is a foundational element of, or at least organically entwined in, the driving forces behind our businesses.

Why not try…

To re-evaluate your company ethos and find the socially responsible elements of what makes you tick as an enterprise. Then highlight these elements in internal practices and as a USP to your potential clientele.

Make It Personal, Authentic, and Effective

Small and mid-sized businesses have a big advantage over large corporations when it comes to social responsibility: the owner is often the founder, who is often the CEO, and the values of the business are often a direct reflection of your own ethical compass and choice of direction in life.

This means that you can truly invest in the contributions you make, both locally and globally, and really yield the maximum two-fold result of reinforcing your company’s bottom lines and feeling good about your work.

Enjoy this feeling, as it’s a luxury that many large corporations don’t possess, despite their millions.

Research, Evaluate, and Record

However small your business is, it’s still a good idea to have a clear process in place for handling your social responsibility; it can help to make the admin side of things the duty of one person for the sake of clarity, efficiency, and accountability.

  1. Research your options and summarize and record your findings when you’re seeking your initial direction. This can just be a list of websites if you’re short on time.
  2. Keep a record of what you did and how.
  3. Evaluate how it went, and what you could do to improve, including feedback from any other parties involved.
  4. Create a company policy for social responsibility that you can put on your website and share with future collaborators or beneficiaries.

The potential of small businesses to harness their own power for positive change in their community, and further afield, is as yet untapped.