Most likely, your business doesn’t sell environmental products or services (only a small percentage do) but have you considered including an environmental and social ethos anyway?
Industry Canada says that integrating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices and principles into your operations can help make your business more innovative, productive, and competitive. Who wouldn`t want that?
The definition of CSR says it is “a company’s environmental, social and economic performance and the impacts of the company on its internal and external stakeholders”. It is sometimes called corporate responsibility, corporate sustainability, triple bottom line, or referred to by its individual area of focus, e.g. environmental management or social responsibility. Whatever the moniker, it can give you an edge over your competitors.
For large corporations, especially multinationals who deal with big players as well as big back accounts, CSR probably includes clauses on anti-corruption and bribery. Yet any size business, whether it has employees or not, can benefit from adhering to and promoting transparency, inclusivity, an environmental conscience, and social or community engagement. You may already be doing this as part of your business but are you highlighting that fact in any of your communications or sales conversations?
Consumers today are more aware and wary of product labels, ingredients, product claims, and service promises. Sure, they’re looking for a good price, but increasingly consumers also want to choose a business with a big heart and a small environmental footprint. It can be a win-win-win situation for your customer, the business, and our shared environment.
Source of Graphic: Developmentcrossing.com
Weaving CSR into your daily business needn’t cost you more. It can start with simple things, like using only or mostly recycled office materials (printer paper, notepads, binders), if you have a physical business location using recycled, reusable, or second-hand materials as much as possible, keeping energy and water consumption low, and buying local products to reduce your ‘ecological footprint’ (i.e. your impact on the planet’s resources and climate). It can range from waste and pollution reduction to employees and/or business owners volunteering.
- Identify a relevant issue or opportunity – either something you’re passionate about or that relates to the core nature of your business, e.g. if you drive a lot to get to your clients you may consider combining appointments to reduce the amount of driving, buy a smaller more energy-efficient vehicle, or off-set your carbon emissions through a legitimate company, for example contributing to tree planting or renewable energy projects (see David Suzuki Foundation, Purchasing Carbon Offsets, http://bit.ly/1nDNPHw).
- Build your credibility. Which foundation or charity are you joining or donating to, and how much? Which volunteer community do you/your employees participate in?
- Let your clients know. Talk about what you are doing; mention it on your website, social media, and in your handout materials
- Reassess. Check that you’re actually impacting the issue you care about and are optimising your efforts. Are you using all the resources available? Do you have the right partnerships?
Including social and environmental responsibility into your small business needn’t be anything big or complicated; simply getting started and making it known to your customers is a good first step.
AMEX Open Forum, How To Create A CSR Program For Your Small Business, http://amex.co/1gAgAuV
Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR), www.cbsr.ca
David Suzuki Foundation, www.davidsuzuki.org
Industry Canada, http://bit.ly/1hxqm3n
Martina Rowley is the founder and operator of Beach Business Hub – THE co-working space east of the Don Valley. She combined her passion and experience in the environmental sector with her community engagement side to create a local work environment where space and resources are shared. She fosters and facilitates collaboration, networking, and learning for and with small business owners and new start-ups. Contact her at:http://www.beachbusinesshub.ca, on Facebook and on Twitter