HR 27 October 2015

Making corporate social responsibility work for a small business and improving employee engagement as a result

A Red Nose Day event run by Langstone Technology Park
A Red Nose Day event run by Langstone Technology Park

Langstone Technology Park‘s PR and communications manager offers insight into how embracing corporate social responsibility can do wonders for a small firm’s reputation, as well as improve staff retention.

With over 4,000 employees based onsite – from micro businesses to large multi-national firms – Langstone Technology Park is at the heart of the business community. What’s more, it’s part of a larger co-working community, the BEST Network, which is a privately owned portfolio of science and tech parks with six locations across the UK.

We believe that to responsibly operate in these communities we have the obligation to make an active commitment to behave ethically and sustainably. And this commitment has fringe effects, such as enhancing our reputation, contributing to long-term employee engagement, improving operational effectiveness, strengthening organisational growth and increasing business opportunity.

We’ve learned many lessons that are transferable across sectors and different sized organisations – mainly to do with communication. Here are a few tips, along with examples of how it went for us.

Getting started – Choose an area of interest

We have found that to begin, you must choose an area that is of interest e.g. environment, education, charity, community etc. and see what your business can support or participate in. Small and micro businesses can work with The Chamber of Commerce or similar networking groups together to have more impact.

Staff engagement is key in motivating people and really getting involved. And as a leader, make sure you have a communications plan to shout about the achievements and inspire others.

Businesses can also look at supply chains etc. and see if there are areas in the business that could be tweaked to make a difference. Are there any affiliations or organisations that could help?

As an example, take Langstone’s participation in Responsible Business Week. This was a key opportunity to gain some invaluable insight into the appetite amongst businesses for social responsibility and what could be done at a grassroots level. It is a national initiative run locally through Business in the Community (one of Prince Charles’ business charities) where business, community and public partnerships collaborate to raise awareness and support the movement towards a positive change in society.

At Langstone, businesses were invited to a discussion and debate about the value and impact of being a responsible business as it means different things to different businesses. The first one was themed around employee volunteering and employees and businesses were given the chance to pledge support on the day. These came in the form of mentoring support to garden clearance to evening youth work.

The second event was about raising environmental awareness and businesses toured the waste areas, found out how to responsibly recycle and learnt more about electric cars and sustainable transport options locally. Businesses were interested, they engaged and we continue to monitor the success.

Partner when possible

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

We already mentioned connecting with local Chambers of Commerce, but there can be many avenues for partnership. Langstone, for example, has a long history of engaging in education and employability initiatives with nearby Havant College and Havant Academy.

Recently, businesses at Langstone were invited to participate in an interview skills workshop with a group of 30 year nine students. A selection of on-site and local businesses took the opportunity to get involved in structured activities such as mock interview, CV and employability skills workshops. These businesses understood the importance of skilling the next generation of potential employee recruits.

Use your resources

What all of the Responsible Business Week events showed was that there was an appetite amongst companies large and small to be more responsible, but they didn’t necessarily possess the resources to carry this through. This is where a thoughtful facilities manager or landlord can really help to facilitate collaboration across businesses. They can provide a proven structure across key areas.

For example, Langstone can help with environmental credentials such as BSI ISO 14001 Environmental Management. This means that there is a robust framework and reporting structure at the site relating to waste management, emissions etc., and individual businesses can simply plug into this rather than reinventing the wheel. Businesses can promote their own sustainability using the site credentials.

Likewise, BEST Network carefully monitors government policies in order to offer public sector support to its tenants. BEST focuses on startups and SMEs to match fund appropriate facilities to interact with the public-sector to support tenants.

One of the major strengths of being part of a business community is the sharing, visibility and ability to publicise any causes or charities being supported. Tenants at Langstone have participated in team and personal challenges and they have been supported through fundraising, PR and awareness. By using the central restaurant or cafe hub as a focal point, it gives all businesses the opportunity to support, whether that means donating money, jumping on an exercise bike, taking the rowing challenge, pledging support, taking information or buying a cake.

Cherry chocolate cupcakes
Cherry chocolate cupcakes

Across all the BEST parks it is encouraged to take part in CSR initiates. Not only is it beneficial for local community cohesion, but it attracts potential tenants to our business community, setting us apart from our competitors.

We believe that by building our reputation as a responsible science park it makes it easier to recruit potential business to our parks and encourage them to stay longer once they’re here. It’s a similar principle for small firms – showcasing an interest in sustainability and CSR can help distinguish yourself from other businesses and often go a long way when it comes to staff attraction and retention.

Claire Mayne is the PR and communications manager at Langstone Technology Park.

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