CSR 4 SME: How Small Businesses Should Report Sustainability

In a previous post amee discussed some of the reasons why small businesses should report their sustainability performance.

So assuming you’ve been convinced about why this is important for your business, what should you do next? Here are some top tips:

1.    Start small and be honest

Employ simple strategies and don’t be too ambitious, at least initially. Sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive but can include simple changes like turning the thermostat down, turning off lights and recycling. You might consider making more use of a carrier service like UPS rather than your own delivery van.

Making a start is the priority, especially as sustainability is much easier to incorporate at the early stages of growth rather than mainstreaming it later.

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2.    Don’t treat it as a separate company initiative

If you do this you’ll get bogged down with reporting and measuring tangible benefits. With limited resources this may end in failure. Instead think about what your business does well already and list these as ‘implemented measures’.

When you review your list and set your sustainability targets try to do so at the same time as setting your ‘normal’ business goals. For example a 10% reduction in office maintenance goes hand-in-hand with ‘sustainable measures’ such as wall insulation or an energy management display.

As one SME advisor has said: “CSR is just normal everyday work, nothing exotic, nothing difficult, nothing costly, and nothing sexy”.

Implement what makes sense for your company in terms of effort and investment. Play to your strengths.

3.    Don’t worry if you have no experience of sustainability reporting 

There are plenty of online examples of how to structure your first report – have a look at ours. The Energy Saving Trust provides a lot of free advice online and you can also get in touch with The Carbon Trust, which has a strong track record of working with SMEs and providing certification of sustainable credentials.

We’re also working on a template which is prefilled with environmental information and which can be easily adapted by your company – watch this space. 

 4.    Forget ‘CSR’, think ‘sustainability’

There is nothing wrong per se with the widely used buzzword CSR, but it does include ‘Corporate’ and ‘Reporting’ – two words that aren’t very appealing to most SMEs. ‘Sustainability’, however, is a much more positive concept and fits more naturally with normal business management.

 In any case, many SMEs are practicing social responsibility without even knowing it or needing to give it a CSR label. The CSR label just puts SMEs off, seeing it as costly to implement and not applicable.

There are plenty of comprehensive guides (and books!) on how to implement CSR in small businesses, but don’t take on too much to start with. Get started with simple measures! 

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