ENTREPRENEURSHIP / NOV. 27, 2014
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The Best Examples of CSR And The Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn

The business world is full of misconceptions, many of which do a disservice to commercial organisations and industries as a whole. Take the manufacturing sector in the UK, for example, which is consistently described as being in a state of disrepair despite the fact that it accounts for an estimated 52% of all British exports and employs up-to 2.5 million employees. The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is also the victim of half-truths and false perceptions, as it is often suggested that they are only a viable option for large, globally active corporations.

This is untrue; however, as the number of businesses that have been motivated to partner with charities has risen considerably in the last year. In the UK alone, 58% of all respondents claim that they now place a greater focus on partnering with non-profit organisations, while 40% consider CSR partnerships to be ‘important’ to their long-term future. Almost 75% stated a belief that these collaborations were effective, and such figures represent a significant change from figures released in 2011 and 2012.

The Best Examples of CSR: What can Small Businesses Learn?

With CSR an increasingly prominent aspect of commercial strategy for ventures of all sizes, companies that have yet to pursue this should consider doing so as a matter of urgency. This is especially true for small businesses, as there are plenty of opportunities and non-profit organisations that are in desperate need of financial and infrastructural support. With this in mind, let’s consider some of the best examples of collaboration between commercial and charitable organisations, and review the lessons that small business owners can learn:

Abbott’s Partnership with PATH: Resolving Long-standing Health Issues

While some may consider the sharing of funds to be an integral part of CSR, there are multiple ways in which a brand can assist non-profit organisation. This was evident in the collaboration between healthcare service provider Abbott and global non-profit organisation PATH, who joined forces to help stricken local millers in India and expand the market for fortified rice. The overall aim of this union was to address the rising levels of malnutrition in India, where rice remains the food staple for more than 65% of the population. By using the knowledge and resources, Abbott was able to add crucial vitamins and minerals to the rice and driver higher standards of healthcare as a result.

What can Small Businesses learn?

The lesson here is clear, as small businesses with minimal financial resources need not be discouraged from engaging in viable non-profit partnerships. So long as they are strategic and strive to utilise their specific expertise or products to resolve a prevalent social issue, they can drive positive change both for local communities and wider geographical regions.

Marks and Spencer Collaborate with Oxfam: Change Behaviour and Create Long-term Foundations

Marks and Spencer is a brand that has a prominent history of CSR, with its Oxfam collaboration providing a relevant case in point. The firm recently re-launched this partnership in the UK, with a view to changing consumer behaviour and providing Oxfam with the opportunity to raise far greater funds in the future. By providing customers with access to in-store clothing recycling units and reducing the amount of waste committed to land-fill, Marks and Spencer are directly helping Oxfam to achieve its aim. By enabling Oxfam to sell this discarded clothing in their charitable stores, they are also providing them with the means to generate more income over time.

What can Small Businesses learn?  

This partnership proves that the most effective CSR collaborations occur when a brand is able to provide practicaland long-term assistance to non-profit groups. This can be achieved alongside creating awareness, and small businesses can look to achieve this among their own consumer base when collaborating with a charitable organisation. By donating surplus products or materials that can help to reduce corporate waste and generate funds for a preferred charity, it is possible to drive change and engage in successful CSR projects on multiple levels.

Portcullis Gates Make the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds its Preferred Charity: The Importance of a Natural and Organic Alignment

While the precise motivation for partnering with a non-profit will vary from one company to the next, there should always be a natural link between the two entities. This helps to forge a purposeful and organic alliance, which resonates with consumers and potential donors while also creating numerous avenues through businesses can assist their chosen charities. Take the recent collaboration between Portcullis Electric Gates and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPOB), for example, which will see the former use its financial resources and wide client base to generate funds and create awareness about the plight of the eagle.

What can Small Businesses Learn?

As a leading outdoor brand with an existing green ethos and sustainable waste management policy, this brand is ideally placed to discuss the plight of the eagle and the impact that this will have on the environment. These factors create a strong and natural alliance between brand and charity, which in turn will have a more powerful impact on clients, customers and potential donors alike. This is something that small business owners must bear in mind, as CSR collaborations that seem contradictory or hypocritical tend to create cynicism among the public and undermine any potential good that they may achieve.

The Last Word

As these examples prove, there are multiple ways in which commercial ventures can engage in CSR projects and add value to non-profit organisations. There are also numerous lessons that small business owners can learn from prominent examples of CSR collaboration, particularly in terms of creative thinking, forging natural alliances and delivering practical help to non-profit groups.

Image: Hygiene Matters / Flickr

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