In Part 1 of this blog, Why Small Business Social Responsibility Deserves Its Own Identity, I shared my thoughts on where Small Businesses fit into the overall picture for Social Responsibility.
As a quick recap, while doing research to create Small Actions Greater Good, lack of tools and even a definition for Small Business Social Responsibility shocked me. So, I created my own definition:
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 business growth and profitability.
However, as I alluded to at the end of the blog, simply creating a definition is not enough. The new definition SUMMARIZES how I believe that Small Businesses can approach Social Responsibility. But a definition alone is not enough to help very busy Small Business Owners learn to implement it.
A Program is Not the Best Place to Start for Small Businesses
In Part 1 of this blog, I stated that “I don’t think Small Business Owners NEED to create large programs”, at least not to begin with and maybe never depending on the business. I used the term “Program” deliberately. If you go back to conduct Social Responsibility research, most resources found are for creating a Social Responsibility “Program”.
A Program, as defined by the Project Management Institute, is a “group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually”. Or in terms of Social Responsibility, that means creating one overall Program to embrace Social Responsibility with multiple individual Projects that are developed and implemented in coordination with each other.
There are definitely advantages of creating a large Program – especially when the benefits intertwine. For corporations and large businesses who are just embracing Social Responsibility, they can jump straight into creating a Program as they have the resources and staff available to handle the effort.
Sounds great right? However, I highly doubt that many Small Business Owners will decide to formally embrace Social Responsibility and then go from no, or very little activity, to creating a detailed Program with multiple Projects.
A New Approach for Small Business Social Responsibility – the Small Actions Framework
So…. how can Small Business Owners implement Social Responsibility? And how can they do this while still managing every other aspect of the business?
To answer that question, I stepped back, considered how Small Businesses operate and created my signature approach to Small Business Social Responsibility – the Small Actions Framework. It contains the following 4 levels which are described in more detail below.
I created the Framework specifically to be:
- FLEXIBLE – The framework includes multiple levels that allow Small Business Owners to start and/or stop at different points, depending on their Social Responsibility experience, interest level, and available resources.
- SCALABLE – The levels are scalable to allow Small Business Owners to implement Social Responsibility at their own pace and as resources allow.
- CUSTOMIZABLE – It’s a framework for a reason – it provides structure, guidance, and tools but leaves plenty of room for Small Business Owners to figure out the details. This ensures that the outcomes are uniquely applicable to their businesses.
- SUSTAINABLE – It can be used as often as needed to update or add to a Small Business Owner’s efforts.
Level 1 – Increasing Small Business Social Responsibility Awareness
While talking to Small Business Owners as I started Small Actions Greater Good, I found that approximately 75% of the Owners were aware of Social Responsibility in general and already making some efforts. However, MOST of these Owners were doing FAR MORE towards Social Responsibility than they were aware. They were already taking quite a few Small Actions.
But… this wasn’t apparent until I talked about what all can be included within Social Responsibility. The awareness of the concept, in general, is there, however, the awareness of the breadth of options is often not. More awareness within the Small Business community is REALLY needed.
To work towards this effort, I organized the various options for Social Responsibility into the following 4 categories and created definitions for each that align with my overall Small Business Social Responsibility definition (you can also download an infographic with these categories here):
- Business Integrity – Actions that enhance how you do business including interacting with your customers, employees, contractors, and suppliers (going beyond typical business standards). In other words, how to demonstrate your interest and dedication to conducting business in an ethical and upstanding manner.
- Safety, Health, and Wellness – Actions that improve the safety of your work environment and the overall mental and physical well-being of your employees and customers. In other words, how to demonstrate your interest in the well-being of your employees and customers.
- Environmental Impact – Actions that decrease the physical impact of your business on the environment both directly from your physical location and indirectly from your actions. In other words, how to demonstrate your interest in preserving and improving the environment.
- Community Engagement – Actions that make a positive contribution to your community (keeping in mind that “community” can be defined in many different ways – including a geographic area or a group of people). In other words, how to demonstrate your interest in serving and improving your community.
In addition, most of the Small Business Owners were taking these small actions simply because they felt that it was the right thing to do, or it aligned with their personal mission and values. Most were not doing them to help bring awareness to their brand, increase customer loyalty, or improve employee engagement. Although, those are all additional benefits from Social Responsibility.
Level 1 will help Small Business Owners:
- Become more educated about Small Business Social Responsibility so they understand what it means and how it can help their business to determine their level of interest.
- Learn about the four categories of Small Business Social Responsibility, with specific examples, so they can see a wider array of opportunities for giving back (it’s NOT just about volunteering or donating profits) without having to do the research themselves.
- Assess their business operations and identify Small Actions that they may already be doing but didn’t realize were included in Social Responsibility so they can appreciate their efforts already and consider doing more.
Level 2 – Embracing a Small Business Social Responsibility Mindset
Level 2, Mindset, is for Small Business Owners who are now more familiar with the benefits of Social Responsibility, the concept of Small Actions, and the four Small Business Social Responsibility categories and want to increase their efforts but aren’t yet ready to integrate Social Responsibility into their overall business strategy.
Embracing a Small Business Social Responsibility Mindset is NOT about changing how you do business to fit a specific mold or a prescribed method. It’s about creating a habit to pause occasionally to see your business from a bigger picture and to look for Small Actions that you can take that benefit both your business and the greater good.
Level 2 will help Small Business Owners:
- Determine their Social Responsibility motivations to help identify the purpose behind their decision so that they can write a commitment statement that they more readily embrace.
- Formally commit to Social Responsibility by writing a commitment statement to serve as an ongoing reminder of their intention so they are less likely to forget.
- Share their commitment statement with others to increase the likelihood that they will follow through with the commitment.
- Demonstrate their commitment by taking more Small Actions as part of their typical business operations so that it becomes second nature when making changes or adding something new – i.e. it becomes a comfortable mindset.
- Celebrate their new mindset when they realize that reminders to incorporate small actions are no longer needed. Why? Because I believe that every accomplishment deserves a celebration (and it gives you something to look forward to while you are working towards it).
Level 3 – Implementing a Small Business Social Responsibility Strategy
Level 3, Strategy, is for Small Business Owners who want to take their Social Responsibility actions further by implementing a clearly defined, connected, and actionable strategy so that the efforts are deeply integrated into the business. This could be done by simply adding more Small Actions (but now selectively choosing them based on the business foundations) or going bigger and rolling up Small Actions into more structured plans.
My process for creating a Small Business Social Responsibility Strategy combines well-established Social Responsibility concepts with business tools and systems that I learned from 20 years of project management, process improvement, and strategic development experience.
Level 3 will help Small Business Owners:
- Establish a strong foundation for their Social Responsibility Strategy that is connected to and grounded in their business’ purpose and identity, the key characteristics of their primary stakeholders (employees, customers, clients, suppliers, etc.), and the overall strategic direction of their business so that every decision is directly connected to their ultimate business goals and will support their business growth.
- Evaluate and identify their detailed interests in each of four Social Responsibility categories – 1) Business Integrity, 2) Safety, Health, & Wellness, 3) Environmental Impact, and 4) Community Engagement – and then narrow down their interests and consider implementation options so that they can save valuable time and resources and not get distracted by trends.
- Define a clear Social Responsibility Strategy with measurable objectives and develop succinct and purposeful implementation plans so that they can successfully implement, track, and share their progress with minimum efforts and maximum benefits.
- Fully integrate their new Social Responsibility Strategy into their business operations and create an ongoing process to evaluate and enhance their Strategy so they can naturally scale their efforts as their businesses grow.
Level 4 – Communicating Your Small Business Social Responsibility Efforts
Level 4, Communications, is for Small Business Owners with a well-established Social Responsibility Strategy who want to increase or energize their communications about Social Responsibility in order to increase their overall brand awareness, increase employee engagement and loyalty, and attract and engage new and existing customers.
Level 4 will help Small Business Owners:
- Revisit their Social Responsibility Strategy to better identify and define potential connection points between their Social Responsibility efforts and their stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, etc.) so that they can update their efforts or develop new communication options that directly engage the target audience(s) and maximize the communication efforts.
- Develop a consistent plan for reporting on overall Social Responsibility efforts to ensure that their existing clients are fully aware of their efforts in a way that works best with their existing business communications to maximize benefits but not overwhelm their audience.
- Use their Social Responsibility efforts to identify new and unique public relations and marketing opportunities that reach new audiences so that they can find new clients in an authentic and socially driven manner.
- Develop and publish an annual Social Responsibility Report that summarizes their activity for the year to celebrate their accomplishments and share the information with their stakeholders.
Are You Interested?
If you are interested in jumping into any level of the Small Actions Framework, please visit my website at www.smallactionsgreatergood.com/small-actions-framework.
Stay tuned for my next blog post. I’ll provide my top business reasons for a Small Business to Implement Social Responsibility (with research and statistics to back it up). In the meanwhile, you can also follow me on Instagram or join my Facebook group to learn more about Social Responsibility and to receive weekly Small Actions Inspirations every Tuesday morning.