What are some ways that a small business can be socially responsible?

Everything socially responsible (packing materials that are environmentally friendly, donating money, etc) seems to cost so much money! My small business doesn’t have major corporate financial resources, but I want to be as socially responsible as possible and want to give back to the community. What are some ways that a small business without major corporate financial resources can be socially responsible and give back to the community while continuing to make a profit?

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5 Responses to “What are some ways that a small business can be socially responsible?”

  1. HouAnswerGuy said:

    I have a small import company and I give back 10% of my sales to charities in the countries my merchandise comes from.

  2. RipCity said:

    If you are seeking some small ways to support you community then how about sponsoring youth activities through the local Boys/Girls Club. How about local high school sports? What about local litter volunteering for your county roads? The other thing may be sponsor a career day with other local businesses. Hope this gives you some ideas. Good luck

  3. BD in NM said:

    It does not necessarily have to be money that you donate. Join a local community service group (such as Kiwanis) or encourage one of your top employees to join by making the time available and picking up the cost of the annual dues. Now you (they) can contribute with a little sweat equity in one of their projects. You are being socially responsible and get the added benefit of getting your name and your companies name in front of other community leaders.

    I think it is a win win situation.

  4. Marci Alboher, SBAC Expert said:

    Coley, it’s great to hear that you’re looking for ways that your business can be socially responsible and I understand your fear that making efforts to help the world could cost more than your business can afford. But I’m going to suggest you think about it in a different way. Take a look at every aspect of your business and ask yourself, “Are there ways I can improve something here?” I’m guessing you can find a few places where you can do better without spending much at all.

    I recently heard about a doctor who was courted for a big position at an urban hospital. He knew he had leverage so as part of his negotiation he asked the hospital to revise its policies on treating poor patients. He got what he asked for. Try to look at your business the same way. What kinds of changes can you make to benefit not only your business but your customers, your employees or your community?

    Here are some questions to ask yourself.

    If you have employees, are you treating them as well as you could be? Do they feel comfortable taking time off when they are sick? Do you provide opportunities for training and acquiring new skills? Have you created an environment that allows workers time for doing things that matter in their personal life?

    Is there a cause or charity that fits in with your company’s focus? If so, why not partner with them on a fundraising activity like a walk or a bicycle ride. You’ll get the opportunity to do good in your community, to engage your employees or customers in good work, and to get people involved in a fitness activity.

    If you use a factory to make any of your products, have you investigated the working conditions in that factory?
    These days, your customers will care about how the products they consume are made. You should too.

    Start reading Good Magazine (www.good.is) and its spin-off Good Business (http://www.good.is/departments/good-business). They’ll give you lots of “good” ideas.

  5. Kevin Salwen, SBAC Expert said:

    Coley, in a price-conscious world, your question is a great one. Many consumer decisions center on price alone, with no attention paid to how goods are produced or other negatives triggered intentionally or inadvertently by companies and consumers. As consumers, we buy engagement rings never thinking about whether young African children might have been enslaved to mine for those diamonds — and of course without thinking about how that might have been OUR children if we’d grown up in a different culture.

    That’s consumer behavior; now let’s shift to responsibilities and opportunities for companies. Marci’s list of questions provides a strong base for you to increase your social responsibility. One way to look at this is through the prism of the Triple Bottom Line: People, planet, profit. In a perfect world, you want all three. In the real world of compromises, sometimes you’ll end up slightly imbalanced. The trick is to keep your business from ignoring any of the three (by the way, I usually replace planet with the word “community” and use it to think beyond the environment).

    Some thoughts:
    — Are your customers so price sensitive that they would balk if your products were sourced so that the growers or manufacturers were assured a living wage? (Costco has built a huge business on this — I’m not even talking about Whole Foods).

    — Wouldn’t many of your customers applaud if your packaging were all reused materials (especially if you let them know what you’ve helped keep out of the landfill)?

    — Isn’t treating your team with deep respect much less expensive than recruiting and training replacements?

    — Doesn’t being out there doing work at the local Boys and Girls Clubs help bring awareness to your brand?

    We entrepreneurs create our own businesses at least in part because we want to create a reflection of our souls. Maybe a little less profit and a lot more goodwill isn’t a bad tradeoff. But I’m willing to bet that if you focus on doing good while doing well, you’ll grow your bottom line too.




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