The benefits of responsible business for SMEs

Jason Woodford is CEO of SiteVisibilty, an SEO agency based in Brighton and active member of Business in the Community. He writes about the benefits of Responsible Business for SMEs.

Twenty years ago, a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity tended to be unrelated to its core business, used to stem or prevent criticism rather than promote real development. But since then there has been a marked shift, and CSR is now seen as an integral part of any business. 

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), like SiteVisibility, often have a naturally responsible approach to business. Due to their close relationships with employees, the local community and business partners, they are uniquely positioned within their local areas to help tackle the social issues facing the UK.

For most SMEs, the process by which they meet their social responsibilities is likely to remain informal and intuitive, and this is absolutely fine. There doesn’t need to be a huge complicated CSR strategy document, as long as businesses are considering the short and long-term social and environmental impact of their business, they can begin to make a difference.

So how can SMEs start to become more socially responsible? For SiteVisibilty, the support of BITC has been invaluable and has hugely contributed to the success of our CSR activity over the years. Here's my top tips for SMEs looking to become more socially responsible:

  • Don’t be intimidated. CSR doesn't have to mean a big, expensive strategy; start small and the results will quickly justify the effort put in.

  • Solve your own problems. Look at the issues your business is facing, and think about how being a more responsible business can help solve them. E.g. if you're struggling to recruit good talent, try offering work placements to vulnerable young people. In Brighton, where SiteVisibility is based, there is a big skills shortage in digital work, so this is something we've been doing.

  • Look after your employees.  Thinking about the needs and interests of your team, consider how CSR can help them.

  • Enjoy the commercial gains. Remember, there is no shame in gaining commercial benefit from CSR – it can be used as a USP in your marketing.

Watch a video about SiteVisibility's work with local charity Extratime.

One thing is clear, it's not all about philanthropy – companies get value from their involvement as well. Business in the Community’s Fortune Favours the Brave report (2013) found that UK businesses could unlock around £100 billion a year in value from new business and innovation opportunities that address social and environmental challenges. And there are other benefits of being a responsible business:

  • Brands that are well-known for their CSR activities benefit from this positive reputation.

  • Being responsible can improve access to capital, reduce costs, and improve shareholder value.

  • Being a responsible business increases employee motivation, productivity and loyalty meaning better employee turnover rates for the business.

  • Through forward planning and looking at the long-term social issues the UK is facing, businesses can improve their ability to identify, prepare and manage future risk.

Starting on the CSR journey does not mean taking a great big leap. By starting with small steps you’ll release what a beneficial impact you’ll have not only in the local community, but on your staff as well.

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