By Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurs at Smith & Williamson

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the deliberate inclusion of the public interest in business decision making. It is about contributing and giving back to the wider world through local or global initiatives. It is also about considering and measuring a ‘triple bottom line’ (also TBL or 3BL) that includes Profit, People and Planet, a phrase coined by founder of SustainAbility consultancy, John Elkington.

A TBL involves measuring how environmentally, socially and financially responsible a company is over time. This enables businesses to:

- gain a truer understanding of the full cost of doing business

- focus more attention on the areas that are being measured and monitored

- become known as a company that cares.

It is the erosion of public trust and confidence that has propelled the cause of Corporate Social Responsibility into the mainstream. Corporate malpractice and exploitation, child labour scandals, childhood obesity, environmental disasters and a host of other issues have all led to a sceptical and questioning public, resulting in companies having to do more to protect and manage their reputations.

Businesses that embrace CSR can boost both their reputations and their profits. By acting in the best interests of the wider community or by supporting local projects, businesses can have a big and positive impact. This will be rewarded in terms of positive PR, happier and more loyal staff, better relationships with suppliers and partners and, ultimately, more customers and profits.

You reap what you sow, so efforts to implement CSR in your business should not become an exercise in box-ticking. To be effective, CSR should be embedded in your day to day operations – part of your culture.

So, what role should CSR play in the activities of a growing, entrepreneurial business?

Think strategically

- Staff, customers and suppliers increasingly want to work with a business that takes social responsibility seriously, and there are valuable paybacks.

- A single business can only expect to have a tiny impact on social needs but you can make a difference if you pick a local issue that is relevant to your business. A win-win position builds energy and perseverance.

- Working with networks such as Business in the Community (www.bitc.org.uk) can rapidly increase your effectiveness, contacts and profile in a local market.

Shape your brand

- Be clear about your brand values (what your business ‘stands for'; the service and behaviours that staff, customers and suppliers can expect).

- Recognise that you are part of a supply chain and that, increasingly, big customers require social and environmental responsibility from suppliers.

- Swim with this tide and build these values into your brand.

Engage staff

- Recruitment data is very clear: good staff want to work for socially-responsible employers.

- Clarify what you offer staff (e.g. volunteering opportunities).

- Provide time and opportunity for staff to shape and mobilise social and environmental projects (productivity and loyalty will be the payback).

Reduce your carbon footprint

- Recognise that environmental responsibility goes along with good management of resources and it usually reduces your costs.

- Measure, manage and reduce your carbon footprint and consider offsetting the remainder through a reputable provider.

- Obtain external validation of your carbon footprint if you intend to publish your achievements to an external audience.

To find out more about CSR and your business, please email guy.rigby@smith.williamson.co.uk or call 020 7131 8213.

By necessity this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Article correct at time of writing.

Smith & Williamson LLP
Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. A member of Nexia International

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