I’m writing this on a Friday morning, feeling happy after the Thursday night clap for the NHS and key workers. Such a simple thing but it creates a sense of community where I live and across the UK and, more importantly, gives NHS and other frontline workers a boost too.
I know that for many of you as business owners, the future looks uncertain but on the other hand, there is some goodness coming out of the coronavirus crisis: despite social distancing, we’re connecting with people more than ever via the phone or video conferencing; exercise is rising up the to-do list; we’re starting to value roles that perhaps in the past hadn’t received the attention and recognition they deserve.
Using Business for Good
Another item that keeps popping up on the news, is that we’re seeing businesses that previously strove for profit, putting their skills and expertise to good use. The world of Formula 1, for example, is engineering ventilators for the NHS
. Designer clothing brand, Burberry
is making PPE. Locally, gin distillers, Greensand Ridge
in Shipbourne and Copper Rivet
in Chatham have started to make hand sanitiser and the former is donating one bottle for every ten sold to a local charity that needs it.
They and many others are putting their businesses to good use during this crisis and are demonstrating corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is when businesses think about the impact that they’re having on society and contribute to philanthropic endeavours or charitable causes. Many organisations conduct themselves this way anyway, aside from the coronavirus crisis, helping local communities or charities that are impacted by or relate to their business.
These efforts add dimensions to a business’s ‘personality’ and can improve how that business is perceived by the public and its customers. A business’s impression on society will be long-lasting thanks to its good deeds, creating a legacy for future generations to emulate and continue.
Why is it good for business?
In the world of fund management, we are seeing the rise of ethical investment funds. There are thousands of investment funds available globally but some parts of the industry have tapped into consumers’ interest in preserving the world around us, saving indigenous communities and helping the vulnerable, for example, and are designing funds that support such groups.
The investment management industry is wealthy and, of course, savvy. This course of action is not necessarily completely altruistic, but it does benefit the target groups as well – it raises their profiles and ultimately, they do receive financial help from these investments.
This is a good example of how consumers are increasingly assessing companies based on their ethical policies and CSR. Whether your business resides on the international stage or your local high street, the marketplace is crowded. If you can demonstrate how you invest in the local community or help a charity, then you are singling yourself out as a positive influence on society and consumers are more likely to spend their money with you.
Working for an institution that ‘does good’ leaves your employees feeling positive and proud of their employer which will boost your bottom line. In addition, your CSR policies could pay dividends when it comes to recruitment: by 2025, 75% of workers will be millennials, a generation of workers for whom CSR is a key factor in their workplace decision making. Hiring the right people is often a tough task but demonstrating how you contribute to the local community could help you attract top talent.
How to do it
CSR is often associated with big multi-national companies but that doesn’t have to be the case
. Using business for good is good for business and that applies across the board, in my opinion, from sole traders to SME’s to the businesses with multi-million-pound turnovers. Here are a few simple ways that you can start to make your business more sustainable.
1. The environment. We are all encouraged to recycle at home but do we recycle as much at work? Think about the cups that are available by the coffee machine, the light bulbs overhead and even whether you could eliminate paper usage completely! This is not only good for the planet but it should save you money too.
2. Working in the community. Some companies give employees paid time off work to volunteer for local charities or leave the office en masse to work on a community project. This contributes to employees’ ‘feel-good factor’ that I mentioned and also helps team-building skills.
3. Choose a charity or ask an employee to nominate a charity that relates to your business and organise fundraising events throughout the year. This helps small charities as it raises their profile and you could tie it in with point 2 – employees could volunteer for the charity as well.
If you’re feeling uninspired, take a look at Certified B Corp
: this is a worldwide effort to help businesses improve their CSR and be able to measure their efforts. Their website demonstrates how seriously some businesses do take their place in society and will provide you with ideas.
Once you have built your policies, you could have a separate page on your website or a CSR policies’ document that you share with investors or customers to promote what you’re doing. You’ll be advertising yourself as an attractive employer whilst highlighting charities and what they do, helping them to reach a new audience.
Each year I choose a new challenge and a new charity to support: the Kilimanjaro trek
was for the Young Women’s Trust
, the London Marathon was for the NSPCC
and the charity horse race at Newbury Racecourse was for the British Horse Society
. This year I am supporting ECHO
a children’s heart charity because one of the ladies in my team is a volunteer and has a child who has been supported by their incredible work.
Is there something your business could do for the COVID-19 crisis?
When it comes to corporate social responsibility, I really like this quote from Maya Angelou. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”
Love to hear your thoughts