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How Can You Do Good as a Small Business? (Categories of Social Responsibility)

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Written By Tanya Quinn

Take a free business assessment to determine your level of Social Responsibility.

When I ask Small Business Owners, how can you do good through their business, most respond with obvious examples such as donating money to a non-profit, volunteering with an organization, or reducing the amount of waste produced.

Yes, these are fabulous ways to give back. However, there is so much more that can be done!

As part of the Small Actions Framework, I’ve organized social good options into four categories of social responsibility. In this article, I’ll remind you what it means to do good and then present each of our four categories of social responsibility. Many will be familiar, but some may not have crossed your mind before.

What is Social Responsibility?

If you haven’t read some of my other blogs, let’s quickly discuss social responsibility. If you want to read in more detail, there are links to other articles at the bottom of this page.

Social responsibility, as a concept, is the theory that any individual or business can consider the greater good when making economic decisions. That there can be a balance between the economy and the ecosystem. Most of the use of social responsibility is in the context of “Corporate Social Responsibility”.

Small Actions Greater Good was created to bring more awareness to Small Business Social Responsibility which I define as:

A commitment to contribute to the greater good by efficiently acting as or making changes to your small business that improve the world around you while also effectively contributing to your small business growth.

A key aspect to keep in mind for social responsibility – it’s also taking an action that is above and beyond what is considered normal operations. In other words, something that you don’t HAVE to do, but something that you CHOOSE to do to contribute to the greater good.

Small Actions Framework’s Four Categories of Social Responsibility

The Small Actions Framework is a unique approach to social responsibility that I created uniquely for Small Business Owners that was developed from existing and proven Corporate Social Responsibility strategies and guidelines but simplified for Small Businesses.

Why four categories?

Honestly, that’s how it made sense to me.

Why didn’t I use the same categories as Corporate Social Responsibility programs?

Simple… there isn’t one structure or standard for CSR programs! If you do research, you’ll find that CSR programs can range from 3 to 6 or more categories. Almost every corporation takes a slightly different approach. But, they have the resources to take their time and create custom approaches for their unique needs.

As a Small Business Owner myself, I understand that is NOT typically the case for Small Businesses. Therefore, I did a lot of research into CSR programs, considered small businesses, and streamlined the ways to good into four categories for the Small Actions Framework.

For each category, a socially responsible action is considered doing something or making a change to your business that goes above and beyond what may be typical business standards.

As an example, committing to be an “ethical” company is not what I consider to be a socially responsible action anymore. That has become a standard expectation. However, choosing to integrate detailed ethics training into your employee training would be going above and beyond what is required.

Category 1 – Business Integrity

Category 1, Business Integrity, is focused on demonstrating your interest and dedication to conducting business in an ethical and upstanding manner.

This category includes taking any actions that enhance how you do business, including interacting with your customers, employees, contractors, and suppliers.

Actions within this category are broken into 5 subcategories:

  • Mission and Values- incorporating your Social Responsibility goals directly into your mission and values.
  • Business Policies – adjusting or adding to your business policies to incorporate Social Responsibility components.
  • Collaboration- placing an emphasis on collaboration over competition.
  • Customer Service – enhancing your customer service beyond typical expectations.
  • Ethical Sourcing – considering the impact of or source of the products that you purchase. 

Category 2 – Safety, Health, & Wellness

Category 2, Safety, Health, & Wellness is focused on demonstrating your interest in the well-being of your employees and customers.

This category includes taking any actions that improve the safety of your work environment and the overall mental and physical well-being of your employees and customers.

Actions within this category are broken into 4 subcategories:

  • Office/Location Safety – maximizing the safe conditions or your office or off-site activities for employees and customers. 
  • Individual Safety – maximizing working safe conditions for your employees.
  • Physical Fitness – encouraging and supporting physical fitness for your employees.
  • Mental Health – encouraging and support mental health for your employees.

Category 3 – Environmental Impact

Category 3, Environmental Impact, is focused on demonstrating your interest in preserving and improving the environment.

This category includes taking any actions that decrease the physical impact of your business on the environment, both directly from your physical location and indirectly from your actions.

Actions within this category are broken into 5 subcategories:

  • Water Use Reduction – reducing the amount of water used by your business.
  • Energy Use Reduction – reducing the amount of energy used by your business.
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction – reducing or offsetting the amount of greenhouse gases produced by your business.
  • Waste Reduction – reducing the amount of waste generated by your business.
  • Chemical Reduction – reducing the amount of harmful chemicals used by your business.

Category 4 – Community Engagement

Category 4, Environmental Impact, is focused on demonstrating your interest in serving and improving your community.

This category includes taking any actions that make a positive contribution to your community (keeping in mind that “community” can be defined in many ways – including a geographic area or a group of people).

Actions within this category are broken into 5 subcategories:

  • Time Donation – donating your or your employees time to help with community events or organizations (i.e. volunteering)
  • Monetary Donation – donating money to support community efforts or organizations.
  • Resource Donation – donating resources that you use or make to support community efforts or organizations.
  • Resource Drive – collecting needed resources for community efforts or organizations.
  • Sponsorship – funding a project or organization in exchanges for agreed upon benefits.

Small Actions Directory

Want to see specific examples of action in each of the four categories and 19 subcategories?

Easy! We maintain a Small Actions Directory on this website.

This directory provides ideas for various actions you can take to do social good through your business that is organized by category and subcategory.

It’s an ongoing effort to update and maintain the directory. We will continue to add actions as we work with more Small Business Owners and discover more unique ways to do good.

Now What?

Hopefully, this article has introduced you to a wider list of ways you can do good and provided you with a resource to inspire more actions of your own.

But – you can do much more!

If you want to be reminded of social responsibility actions to consider for your business, you can sign up to become a member of our free community. We send weekly emails to our community members with inspirations for ideas and additional news from Small Actions Greater Good. As a community member, you’ll also be able to join our private Facebook group to be inspired and learn from other like-minded Small Business Owners.

Doing social good is great. But, doing EFFECTIVE social good is even better! If you want to learn how to take your actions and make them easier and more effective, learn how to implement the Small Actions Framework.

About This Content

This article is the last of an 8-part series that introduces foundational concepts about Small Business Social Responsibility, Small Actions Greater Good, and the Small Actions Framework. Links to these articles are provided below.

  1. What is Small Business Social Responsibility?
  2. What is the Small Actions Framework? (A Unique Social Responsibility Approach for Small Businesses)
  3. (This Article) How Can You Do Good As a Small Business? (Categories of Social Responsibility)
  4. Why Should Businesses Be Socially Responsible? (Or More Specifically Small Businesses)
  5. What Are the Potential Benefits of Social Responsibility?
  6. What’s Holding You Back? (Social Responsibility in Small Business)
  7. Doing Good is Good Business (IF You Do It Effectively)
  8. Levels of Social Responsibility (How Socially Responsible is Your Small Business?)

As an alternative to reading each of the blogs separately, you sign up for a free 8-part email series, An Introduction to Social Responsibility for Small Business Owners, which includes most of the content from these 8 blogs.

Sign Up for the Email Series

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Tanya Quinn, Founder of Small Actions Greater Good

About Small Actions Greater Good

Small Actions Greater Good provides education, resources, and training to make it easier for Small Businesses Owners to do more effective social good that benefits their business, makes them proud of their efforts, and inspires others (also known as Small Business Social Responsibility).

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Founder of Small Actions Greater Good

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