Small businesses may think that social responsibility does not apply to them because of the "C' word , the corporate, that stands in front of the "SR". If one considers the fact that small businesses account for 70% of the work force, it is easy to see how small businesses have great potential for impact on social responsibility and philanthropy in their communities. Just as one example, consider the magnitude of the environmental impact alone of 70% of the people in the workplace.
By taking out the "C" word out of Social Responsibility, small and mid-sized businesses can embrace social responsibility with the assurance that their contribution to society will have impact and will add value to their communities and to their business.
Here are seven ways that any sized business can embrace Social Responsibility.
One just needs to go behind any business or business area to see dumpsters full of waste. Businesses generate all kinds of waste: electronic, paper, plastic,cardboard, food waste, printer ink cartridges, batteries, and office equipment that can all be recycled and saved from the landfill. Handing out recyclable bags to customers for their purchases and giving customers incentives for bringing in their bags can help businesses and communities stay green.
2. Reduce Your Energy Consumption
Turn off unnecessary lights in your business overnight. Replace light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Power down your computers when not in use. If you own your own building, install solar energy panels. Your energy reduction will also result in long term savings.
3. Volunteer Locally
While small businesses may not have the large employee volunteer pools of big business, small businesses have closer connections with their employees and are likely to engage a greater percentage of them in volunteering. Small businesses are also closer to their local community needs and are better able to match volunteers to the right causes. Small business can support the community by volunteering for fundraisers, for environmental causes like cleanup days, or pitch in to help build homes or in soup kitchens.
4.Establish Your Own Grant Program
Although small businesses account for the majority of the workforce, they cannot match big companies in revenues. Large companies are able to endow foundations that can make huge donations to support nonprofits or social enterprises. Small businesses may not have the kind of funding that large businesses have, but they can set up an application process for small local non-profits that helps charities in their fundraising process as well as helps the business control the deluge of requests for donations.
5.Collaborate With Other Businesses
Small businesses can more easily find inventive ways of collaborating with other small businesses, either through their Chamber of Commerce, local branches of associations, networking groups, or just in their local business community. Helping each other to develop a healthy local economy and sustainable business practices is the kind of community involvement that can help the entire community grow.
6. Help Global Causes
Should global causes be more interesting to small business owners, they can invest modestly in micro-lending enterprises such as Kiva. Some small businesses have started their own social enterprises directly supporting local or global causes, with part or all of their profits, (see postings about In Her Shoes and Mission Street Food) going to both local and/or global causes.
There are also opportunities to support the many 501c3 organizations located in local communities that support global causes such as building schools in Africa, or sending supplies to underprivileged communities.
7. Start Your Own Cause Marketing Campaign
Businesses have great resources to involve their customers with well thought out campaigns that can help raise funds and increase community involvement in their favorite causes. Cause marketing for small businesses can be as simple as posting a flier in your window, collection spare change, giving discounts to customers who support a charity, or mentioning your favorite charity on your website.
Increasingly customers are expecting large corporations to be more philanthropic and socially responsible. That level of expectation will soon trickle down towards smaller businesses. Maybe it’s time for small businesses to realize that collectively their impact can be as important as that of big business, that there customers will appreciate their commitment ,and their responsibility may be even greater.