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Corporate Social Responsibility and your Business : building on Core Values

John Nelligan


A recent discussion about businesses in the community, and the role of corporate responsibility (CR) for smaller businesses, left me reflecting how often a strong desire to ‘give something back’ to the community drives many business owners ‘core values’ and as a result features heavily in their visions and strategic goals. Even if they do not know it!

Being seen to be socially responsible is a popular strategy for creating an “edge” over competitors for larger corporates. Keen to demonstrate that “they care”, and have “values”, these larger corporates see benefit in creating sustainable planning and empowering its employees to act socially responsible. But whilst welcome, without doubt, it still often falls short of what the small and medium sized businesses are naturally and already doing out there in the community.

So why the distinction? And how do ‘core values’ make a difference?

Well, while generalizing is usually not sensible, clearly the smaller the company the easier it is for the core values to be retained throughout an organization. Most small business owners feel quite strongly about what they do. And how they do it! It is usually part of their passion in the early days. But, as they expand and grow, these values often get watered down. And as they step back from the day-to-day business, to manage it rather than work in it, flowing down core values gets harder.  

Fast forward, companies will often feel the need to return back to their ‘roots’, reflecting on their position as a business within the community. Creating charters and policies for fostering better corporate and social responsibility. A better, and more effective, strategy however is to focus on the core values of the owners, and employees, and incorporate these firmly into the regular and ongoing strategic planning for the business.

This way the social responsibility remains authentic!

The message, as a smaller company, is that you are more than likely already doing your bit. If not you probably just need to look no further than your core values, what’s dear to you. Finding where you could make a difference, seeking out ‘opportunities’ where as a business you could lend a hand, however is often not easy! The desire to help or make a difference is not enough: knowing how to ‘connect’ is the key.

So what does this mean for busy business owners and managers wishing to help more in the community? What could they be doing? What should they avoid, or not be doing?

1. Size really doesn’t matter! It is often the small, or seemingly invaluable gifts that can and do make a real difference. Your time as a book keeper to help with a charity, for instance, of HR professionals to help the unemployed with their CV or prepare for return to work, or project / management specialists to help organise a community project, to coordinate the efforts and contributions of businesses in the community, are just some examples. There are endless ways in which business, regardless of size, can lend a hand. All contributions however small will be welcomed!  

2. You get back only as much you prepared to give! Think about it: the more that you give, the more that you seem to be rewarded and get back in return. Once you start giving freely, whether of information, time or resources, and the more open that you are, the more that people connect with you and tend to reciprocate in some way. And businesses are owned and run by people. It may or may not lead to a sale or custom directly, but so what? That connection, as well as the generosity, is likely to be remembered for a long time. Small businesses need all the good “Karma” they can get! Make giving rather than taking a business philosophy.

3. Making that connection! Perhaps the biggest problem facing businesses is how to make the connection. They want to help, be more responsible. After all it’s in their core values. But they don’t know how to put it in to practice. Not easy you might think. Well actually it is. Simply incorporate it in your strategic planning. Make identifying and connecting / helping “X” worthwhile causes, contributing to delivering / providing “Y” more socially responsible targets as part of the vision for the business and it will happen! Once “enshrined” in a plan, finding Business in Community and suitable Business Connectors can be tackled the same as finding customers for a new market sector!     

Strategic planning is something that all businesses should be doing, regularly. Business Doctors has had a lot of experience helping clients to identify their core values and build them into highly effective strategic plans that deliver results and work.

In terms of your core values, or corporate responsibility, we know on which you should be focusing!

If this article has captured an interest, or you want to find out more about this strategically important topic, feel free to call or contact us for a chat, no obligations.

Feedback or comments welcome!