Much has been written on how SMEs do (and do not) engage with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The barriers are well known, from being too much effort, too costly or simply irrelevant.
Yet these barriers are often misconceptions and in any case overlook compelling reasons as to why small businesses should produce their own sustainability reports.
Here are the top five:
1. Improved image and reputation
Studies and reports show that customers care about CSR issues and are actively looking to buy products and services from sustainable businesses. A sustainability report enables you to highlight the efforts you’re making to tackle critical issues which many consumers care about deeply.
By being transparent about these efforts you can also develop trust among potential customers and create a positive feeling with prospective business partners who are making similar efforts.
In short, there is an increasingly clear link between CSR and more business.
2. Increased attractiveness to supply chain owners
There is a growing trend for large companies to demand ethical and sustainable standards among their suppliers. Examples include Walmart’s supplier sustainability assessment, Marks & Spencer’s Plan A, Ford’s supply chain sustainability group and Philiips’ EcoVision.
These supply chain owners are taking increasing interest in the actions and reputations of their suppliers and sub-suppliers. Being inefficient or turning a blind eye to unsustainable business practices is no longer an option. Equally, those businesses which are proactive with their sustainability efforts are set to reap lucrative contracts, especially as more and more environmental data is made public.
CSR might be thrust upon you sooner than you think. Better to be ahead of the game than playing catch-up.
3. Larger, more prominent profile
Completing a sustainability report gives you something to distinguish yourself from rivals. Sustainability issues such as green energy, energy efficient buildings and recycling are always in the news and form an easy basis for marketing campaigns.
Getting external recognition for your efforts is becoming more common too and there are now numerous awards across the country for sustainable SMEs, both nationally and locally. This all helps to create buzz about your business and enhanced word-of-mouth.
4. Cost savings and increased efficiency
By identifying how much energy and water your business uses, as well as how much waste it generates, you can make informed decisions about which efficiency technologies and measures you wish to implement.
Smart meters and other energy management equipment, such as Wattson energy monitors, are becoming mainstream, meaning it’s far easier to identify specific energy-hungry appliances. Furthermore, policy initiatives such as the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme (ECA) allow businesses to write off the capital cost of purchasing the most efficient technologies against their taxable profits.
The first step is to identify where you can and should make utility savings, then it’s far easier to appreciate the quick payback periods that many of these offer.
5. Increased employee motivation and loyalty
Surveys suggest that employees who work for companies which recognise the importance of sustainability tend to feel more positively about their employer. Not only does this help to keep employees loyal but it also results in higher creativity and work ethic. Businesses that embrace CSR practices are also more attractive to potential recruits, especially the brightest graduates.
This is just a snapshot as to why SMEs should get involved with CSR – there are entire books on the subject! In our next post we’ll be giving some useful tips to help you get started.