Engagement of SMEs in social responsibility programmes

Oceanic Pharmachem Private Limited (OPPL) believes that social responsibility programmes do not require corporate-sized teams or budgets and even be pursued effectively by SMEs.

Corporate social responsibility has come a long way, with community outreach and sustainability becoming standard practice for most well-known businesses. But contributing to society should not be the preserve of large corporates alone. The large number of SMEs, employing nearly 50% of the workforce, should be encouraged to champion CSR and celebrate the successes of such activities.

The term corporate social responsibility can itself prove daunting to a small business owner with limited resources. There are various ways that SMEs can implement a successful social responsibility programme, in a step-by-step method:

Finding a champion

As with any business initiative, social responsibility needs someone to drive it. Most SMEs can’t spare a person whose sole job is to run a programme. Hence, team members who are passionate about CSR have to be tapped and handed an additional role to attract others to get involved. However, It has to be ensured that the programme has the support and buy-in of the management team.

Viewing it as an business investment

Even if it’s not a full-time role, allocating staff members’ time during working hours can cause concern for some owners of SMEs. It has to be remembered that developing a strong responsibility programme is actually an investment in the business. Engaging with the community helps to extend the business network, opening up doors for new business opportunities. Community engagement can also help give an edge over competition. Having an ethical and socially responsible programme in place can be an asset for any company looking to work with the government or public sector.

Defining the programme and setting realistic goals

Social responsibility has a different meaning for different companies. Focussing the programme in alignment to the business sense is desirable. Supporting education, art or local charities, environmental sustainability are major initiatives. These not mutually exclusive, but the important thing is to not spread thinly, but to start small and later expand the initiatives.

Collaborating with right partners

Even a champion will have difficulty to do their day job and simultaneously keep a social responsibility programme running. In most SMEs, doing business is all about working with complementary partnerships and it works the same way for CSR. Plenty of organisations can support responsible business objectives, including local social enterprises which connect local businesses, charities and residents to widen community sustainability and CSR initiatives, providing additional resource, opportunity and numbers to help smaller business to engage in these activities.

Measuring success and celebrating it

Setting realistic goals and targets for social responsibility programmes, will help participating employees to get more involved. The success of such activities will provide a great source of incentive, which, in turn, will increase the momentum.