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CSR and SMEs

SMEs in Ireland make up over 99% of businesses in the economy and account for almost 70% of people employed. These figures show that SMEs are a vital part of communities nationally. CSR has been a part of corporate strategy in larger companies for some years. However smaller companies have not engaged with CSR in the same way, although this is slowly starting to change.  Since SMEs are such a large part of the business community, they provide the ideal platform to implement socially responsible business practise across society.

The Benefits of CSR for SMEs
There are various perceived barriers preventing SMEs from engaging with CSR. They include, among other things, an unclear understanding as to the nature and necessity of CSR, as well as the belief that it would cost a lot of money to implement. However, a robust CSR strategy for small and medium businesses has been shown to bring a range of benefits, such as;

•    a boost to the company’s reputation
•    an increase in marketing opportunities
•    an improvement in staff morale
•    an overall decrease in overhead costs

This projected increase in competitiveness would counter-act any costs associated with implementing CSR initiatives. There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that CSR initiatives can;

•    help generate revenue
•    improve relations with regulatory bodies
•    attract and retain customers
•    increase efficiency and productivity

In addition, CSR promotes a culture of risk/impact management within a business. This can help businesses with long-term strategic planning.  It can also help companies manage and strengthen their reputation within the community. Increasingly, CSR is becoming not just about the value a business can create for society but also about how business can become more sustainable and better able to compete in the changing environments they are operating in.

Introducing CSR to your business
Most SMEs already behave in a socially responsible way (although many don’t communicate it or acknowledge that such conduct is CSR). For businesses who don’t yet engage with CSR, any strategies should be kept simple. SMEs should focus on low cost initiatives, on integrating activities into existing practices and on fully engaging with relevant stakeholders.

The following are some examples of the main ways companies can become more socially responsible and develop good relationships in the communities where they do business;

•    Dedicating company owner, manager or employee time to social causes free of charge
•    Promoting economic regeneration and social integration
•    Recycle/Reduce Energy Consumption
•    Establish a Grant Programme aimed at local NGOs
•    Help Global Causes, through volunteering, partnering, donation of resources/expertise
•    Responsible Entrepreneurship/Supply Chain Management

Through the annual CSR Awards, Chambers Ireland ahs compiled a range of case studies of SMEs who engage in CSR at varying levels. These case studies should give SMEs a clearer idea of the kind of CSr projects that businesses are currently involved with.

Chambers Ireland can offer SMEs with an interest in Corporate Social Responsibility the opportunity to engage with some of Ireland's leading CSR practitioners. For more information on our CSR consultation opportunities for SMEs, click here

In order to assist SMEs in implementing CSR initiatives, Chambers Ireland has put together a checklist that will help businesses self-evaluate and decide how best to integrate a CSR strategy into their business plan. It can also act as a self-assessment of CSR performance for pre-existing programmes. The checklist covers five key areas;
 
•    Company values
•    Workplace policies
•    Marketplace policies
•    Environmental policies
•    Community policies

CSR Checklist for SMEs

Evaluating CSR
Should your organisation be currently implementing a CSR strategy, it is important to evaluate CSR activities at regular intervals. This will assist the company in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of its different strategies and programmes. It also helps the company to measure the impact of CSR practices on the business. (Does it improve profits, investment, staff morale, corporate reputation etc?

For example;
1.    Identify key CSR issues and challenges the organisation is facing?
2.    Set goals for improvement
3.    Set achievable strategic targets
4.    Measure impact on profits, investment
5.    Measure impact on staff morale
6.    Measure impact on corporate reputation
7.    Measure increase/decrease in press coverage

Other Resources

Chambers Ireland CSR consultations for SMEs is an opportunity for SMEs to meet one-on-one with a CSR specialist for advice and guidance on getting engaged in CSR or promotion and development of existing CSR strategies. 

Responsible Business for SMEs is a new service from Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), Ireland’s only network dedicated to responsible business.  BITCI has been supporting large companies to be more responsible and sustainable for the last fifteen years in Ireland and are now poised to support all businesses, both large and small. As part of the new initiative, a new website portal dedicated to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) contains useful tips, guidance and case studies on how smaller businesses can apply the concept of social responsibility to their operations, to the mutual advantage of the company, the wider community and the environment.

Through Responsible Business for SMEs, BITCI wants to help Irish SMEs to do better business and increase competitive advantage by sharing their responsible and sustainable practices with customers, suppliers, employees, and the wider community. Hence part of the support provided by Responsible Business for SMEs is the creation of Sustainability Reports for SMEs. While many small businesses are already engaging in a number of responsible and sustainable business practices, in many cases they aren’t communicating their efforts and hence not reaping the full benefits. Contact BITC for more information.

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