Are you familiar with Corporate Social Responsibility? If I was to ask you to define Small Business Social Responsibility, could you?
Probably not. Because as of 2019 when this blog was first written, I couldn’t find a definition. And, that didn’t make any sense. So, I created one.
But how did this even start??
Corporate Social Responsibility IS NOT NECESSARILY the same as Small Business Social Responsibility
At the end of 2018 and into early 2019, multiple large publications shared their projections on the continuing and projected trends for entrepreneurs and Small Businesses. In many of the articles, Social Responsibility, or aspects often included in Social Responsibility, such as employee happiness, sustainability, and health & wellness, were on the list.
As a Small Business Owner, if you weren’t familiar with Social Responsibility upon reading these articles, the first thing that you might do is to head to Google for more information. As of the date of this blog post, if you search for Small Business Social Responsibility in Google, you’ll see over 665 MILLION results.
If you scroll through the first few pages, you’ll notice that Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR appears in almost 2/3 of the results in the first few pages either in the title or short description.
Are you wondering how did this go from “Small Business” to “Corporate”? As someone who’s worked on both sides of the fence, tools and resources created for Corporations or Large Businesses rarely apply for Small Businesses. Often, the word “Corporate” alone will turn away Small Business Owners from even looking at the content.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
CSR is the concept that a business can be both profitable AND contribute to the greater good. The idea started with initial theories in the mid-20th century and has become a widely accepted corporate business strategy today.
There are thousands upon thousands of articles, publications, books, and research studies that address the background, theories, and importance of CSR if you want to fall down that research rabbit hole. However, there isn’t one single standard for CSR. There are no governing bodies that officially enforce it. If you try to find one unifying definition of CSR, you’ll quickly learn that it’s a little different no matter where you look. Even the components of what’s included as part of CSR differ.
In 2010, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 26000:2010. This is a set of voluntary guidelines on how businesses and organizations can operate in a socially responsible manner to standardize worldwide efforts. It’s intended to apply to any sized business, but ISO standards are often thought of as very detailed or complicated, especially for Small Businesses. In general U.S. companies aren’t as quick to consider them as international companies either.
But… no matter how a CSR program is created, in essence, it focuses on how a corporation can be a good overall citizen in the world by considering how their company affects the people they interact with (shareholders, customers, employees, etc.), society as a whole, and the environment.
Where Do Small Businesses Fit into This?
As shown in the articles referenced and the thousands of Google results, the emphasis on Social Responsibility has been trickling down to Small Businesses in the last few years. Often, Small Business Owners know of Social Responsibility in general. In some cases, they may be consciously incorporating aspects into their operations. In other cases, they have aspects but don’t even realize it. For most, they are already doing more than they even realize!
How Social Responsibility helps Small Businesses is very similar to Large Businesses. For example, consumers are starting to hold businesses accountable for how they help improve the world and it shows in their spending habits and loyalty.
There are a lot of great studies that help to demonstrate WHY Social Responsibility is important. These are just as applicable to Small Businesses as Corporations. (I have more blog posts addressing this as well as examples of Social Responsibility in action).
However, what I DON’T think applies for both is HOW Social Responsibility is considered and embraced. Corporations have larger budgets, more staff, and more resources to dedicate to Corporate Social Responsibility programs. They can implement very detailed multi-faceted programs that address many or all of the potential Social Responsibility aspects.
And yet… if you look at most of the articles and research available, Small Business Owners are simply advised to implement “CSR” with very little, if any, guidance.
How many Small Business Owners do you know that have extra time on their hands to dig through pages and pages of research or to read ISO Standards to determine the best way to establish a CSR program but on a smaller scale? Probably very few.
Lack of Tools for Small Business Owners
So, what do Small Business Owners do who want to get involved in Social Responsibility but don’t know where to begin?
As a Small Business Owner myself, when I first came up with the concept for Small Actions Greater Good, I started with Google of course. If you haven’t read my personal origin story for my business, check out my previous blog article (Why I Created Small Actions Greater Good).
I wanted to go beyond the thousands of articles that simply recommend CSR. I wanted to find substantial resources for HOW to implement Social Responsibility in a smaller setting and with limited time and resources.
What I found was shocking!
For this blog, I did the same searches again as of mid-June 2019:
If you Google “Corporate Social Responsibility Definition” you get 39 thousand results.
If you Google “Small Business Social Responsibility Definition” you get ONE result.
(Note – that one result is from my website. When I first started, there wasn’t a single result.)
If you Google “Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy” you get 88 thousand results.
If you Google “Small Business Social Responsibility Strategy” you get ONE result.
If you Google “Corporate Social Responsibility Guidance” you get 18.4 thousand results.
If you Google “Small Business Social Responsibility Guidance” you get ZERO results.
*I use quotations to make sure I’m getting the EXACT results that I am looking for with Google.
Small Actions Greater Good – Filling a Gap
According to the U.S. Small Business Association’s 2018 Small Business Profile, there are 30.2 million Small Businesses in the US (99.9% of US businesses). They employ 58.9 million people which is approximately 47.5% of the private workforce. Most of that employment is by firms with less than 100 people.
And yet, as demonstrated by my searches, most of the information and resources available for Social Responsibility is focused on Corporations.
Just IMAGINE all the possible good if ALL Small Businesses focused some of their energy on Social Responsibility AND if they shared their efforts!!!
I created Small Actions Greater Good to fill a gap in awareness, tools, and resources for Small Business Owners who want to contribute to the greater good while also supporting their business. And for those Owners who already contribute but want to do more!
With the often-limited resources and time available, I don’t think Small Business Owners NEED to create large programs. Any small actions taken can be a helpful step in the right direction and when combined with the power of other Small Business Owners, the actions can add up to make a huge difference.
I believe that Small Business Social Responsibility deserves its own definition – its own separate identity – so I created one:
Small Business Social Responsibility (SBSR): A commitment to contribute to the greater good by taking educated, informed, and impactful small actions and implementing mindful business practices that improve the world around you while also contributing to your small business growth and profitability.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Blog to learn more!
I also believe that Small Business Social Responsibility deserves its own tools and resources. So I’ve created those too… Continue reading Part 2 of this blog post to learn more.
The power to make a difference in the world is NOT only for corporations. Join me and other like-minded Small Business Owners! To learn more immediately, consider the free resources on my website or follow me on Social Media.
To read some of the articles that I referenced at the start of this blog, check out the following links:
- Entrepreneur.com – 5 Business Trends That Will Continue to Rise in 2019
- Business News Daily.com – 20 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2019
- Forbes.com – The Top Five Small Business Trends To Monitor In 2019
- US Chamber of Commerce – 2019 Trends May Inspire New Business Ideas
- SBDC Net – 2019 Small Business Trends to Watch