People often stereotype corporate social responsibility initiatives as being only for large companies, which often causes small business owners to think that CSR is not for them. I’m here to tell you that that doesn’t have to be the case. To prove my point, I’ve identified key initiatives by large corporations and listed out ideas for how small business can get involved in similar ways.
Without further adieu, here are my three corporate social responsbility “hacks” for small businesses.
Google: Disaster Relief
Google supports a great number of social initiatives, but one issue that it’s integrated particularly well with its product is disaster relief/fund raising. On their CSR webpage, Google summarizes what they’ve done:
“To support the vast and urgent need for material resources, Google and its employees raised over 18 million RMB (USD 2.6mm) and donated over 7 million RMB (USD 1.02mm) ’s worth of free online advertising to earthquake relief organizations. At the same time, Google also developed a communication platform that included an information platform for resource support, a search platform for families looking for lost relatives, and a global platform for charitable donations. Google Maps also provided China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping with satellite images of quake-affected regions to better aid and direct rescue efforts.”
Ummm…you may be thinking with great power, comes great responsibility. Yeah, me too. But Google hasn’t solved all of the world’s problems (yet), so there’s still some work for the rest of us to do.
Small Business Hack:
- Organize a donation—find a relief organization you trust, and then raise money for it. Maybe donate a percentage of your sales for the month, ask your employees and clients for donations, or offer up some kind of service to raise awareness of the issue. Raising awareness goes hand-in-hand with raising money, so even if you don’t get huge numbers of donations, you’ve still done some good.
- Sponsor someone—most people know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who will go on a relief trip to a place in need of extra hands. Consider donating company funds or raising money to help a contact go on such a trip. Places like Nepal and even Haiti still need help.
- Sponsor yourselves—If you’re really invested, you could organize an employee trip for disaster relief. This could work if you have a very small, extremely flexible company, or if there’s an area near you in need of extra sets of hands.
- Help close to home—You don’t have to stick to disaster relief—find someone in your own community facing a hardship who needs a “mini disaster” relief. Research organizations in your community who help people who have cleanup and damage repair needs around their homes that they are unable to fix themselves—be it for sickness, lack of funds, etc.
NuSkin: Health Initiatives
“From its first project to support the traditions and environment of families living in the Falealupo village in Western Samoa to the now hundreds of humanitarian projects supported in more than 50 countries, the Nu Skin Force for Good Foundation is committed to making a difference for thousands, if not millions, of children for generations to come.”
“To help children live a healthier more joyful life, the Nu Skin Force for Good Foundation partners with organizations throughout the world to provide surgeries, funding for medical research, health equipment, and more.”
You may not be able to support surgeries, fund research, or provide health equipment, but there are other ways to get you involved in health activities.
Small Business Hacks:
- Employee health program—Why not start within your own walls? Engage your employees in some health incentives and see what happens. Research shows that physical activity leads to a better mood, sharpens focus, and increases productivity. Who wouldn’t want that around the office? But be sure to make the rewards something fun…like ice cream.
- Do a fundraiser or 5k—Someone in your office probably has a medical issue that’s close to their hearts. If people personally know someone affected, they’re more likely to get involved. Ask the person how the office can rally support—maybe through a public event coming up, or a 5k walk/run. Many diseases in need of research funding make it easy for the public to participate. The first step is just showing up.
- Support a community health center—Many communities have a health center for children, women, or families without sufficient access to medical care. If you’re a part of a professional medical group, consider setting up a way for your employees to volunteer on company time. If you’re not medical professionals, ask what other types of volunteer activities you can do—daycare, event set up, etc.
- Pick something specific to donate—Medical equipment doesn’t have to be huge—you can donate something small, like glasses or recycled glasses. Glasses have a great ripple effect, because they help children do better in school, which will empower them for the rest of their lives.
Starbucks: Sustainable Business Practices
Starbucks has a great reputation for being socially responsible—particularly in their environmental efforts. Here are four efforts they published on their website:
- We are working to bring all of our stores to LEED® building standards and ensure that our approach to designing, building, and maintaining our stores is inclusive of a range of environmental goals.
- We’re working to shrink our environmental footprint and meet the expectations of our customers by increasing recycling, promoting reusable cups and reducing the waste associated with our cups and other packaging.
- By conserving the energy and water we use and purchasing renewable energy credits, we’re pushing ourselves to reduce the environmental footprint of our operations and help ensure access to clean water in coffee-growing communities.
- Since 2004, we’ve been pursuing strategies to address this challenge and help farmers mitigate the impact of climate change on their farms.
Many companies have a difficult time overcoming barriers to sustainable practices. Maybe your office can’t go LEED®, but there are simpler steps to take.
Small Business Hacks:
- Recycle-–Easier said than done, right? Lots of offices don’t have recycling available to them. Sometimes you just got to do things yourself. If there’s space available around your office, then consider a recycling service which will put a free bin in your lot (in Michigan we have a service called Paper Gator—maybe there’s a service like it near you). If you can’t get a bin, try finding a bin. Many schools host paper drives, so you can collect your recycling and drop it off when there’s one near you. If your organization is super small, maybe your employees will be willing to take turns taking the recycling home to their own bins at the end of the week.
- Reuse-–Do you have disposable plates and cups available to your employees? If you have a coffee kitchen, then you have a wonderful opportunity to supply your office with reusable silverware and dishes. Even though people will have to clean their dishes, reusing will save costs in the long run. And save the planet, too.
- Get a water filter—Ditched the bottled water and get a filtered pitcher or two. Maybe even give all your employees reusable company water bottles.
- Invest in sustainable energy—Do you have the ability to install solar panels on your building? How about installing a wind turbine? Low flow toilets? All of these sound like big commitments, but they’re not too far fetched and each has been done before. If it’s too much for you for now, maybe just encourage everyone to turn lights off in rooms that aren’t being used.
This is just a short list—really the possibilities are endless. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you’re behind, because you might already have one foot off the ground. The Network for Business Sustainability published a list for small business on how to know if you’re already doing CSR. In short, it comes down to respect and the being intentional of having good business practices.
If you’re still feeling disadvantage because you don’t have big business power, know that there are advantages to CSR as a small business. If you’re the owner of your company, you may have also founded it. Close involvement of owners and founders can rally the troops, and make service much more personal and focused than larger corporations. Remember, even simple actions can bring about change.