Insurance 17 December 2015

Taking the “C” out of CSR: How being kind can support your small business at Christmas and beyond

Xero's Gary Turner believes that big businesses can attract customers with thoughtful CSR
Xero’s Gary Turner believes that big businesses can attract customers with thoughtful CSR

Gary Turner, managing director at Xero, explains why corporate social responsibility (CSR) does not only need to be for big business – as long as smaller ones can strip out the “corporate” and think creatively.

The first glimpse of a bottle of Baileys and mince pies softens the hearts of many of us at Christmas and it is no different for progressive thinking businesses. In recent years, putting ethical and responsible processes at the heart of business through CSR programmes is considered essential to most, if not all, large corporations. CSR strategies can promote brand loyalty by firmly establishing roots in the communities served and although it is traditionally the domain of large businesses, small businesses can cash in on the benefits too.

By taking the “corporate” out of CSR, small businesses can embrace bespoke social responsibility activities, adding value to local communities as well as to the company. And, as Christmas is the season for good will, if you’ve not tried CSR for your small business before now is a good time to start.

‘Tis the season to be charitable

Whether it is a festive bake sale, a 5km Santa dash race or a Christmas jumper day in aid of a local charity or social enterprise, by recognising and supporting local causes you have the opportunity to build valuable relationships with the local community and encourage strong mutual and beneficial support that can generate many years of goodwill. Hosting an online charity auction using donated stock is a great way to find new customers, or you could purchase your Christmas party supplies through platforms such as TheGivingMachine or Give As You Live – which operate by generating cash-back for charities you choose whenever you buy through online retailers. Whichever method you decide, charity supporters are loyal and positive feedback about your business on a charity’s social media page can go a long way.

There are many ways your business can benefit from giving to charity but here are the main ones:

(1) A morale boost: Getting your company involved with your community is great way to boost morale and keep your employees happy. Giving your employees time to participate in events during work hours is fun for the whole business and great for team bonding.

(2) Customer love: Giving to the local community will win you the support and loyalty of your customers

(3) There are tax benefits: Small businesses can receive deductions of up to 50 per cent on adjusted gross income when charitable giving is incorporated into your business model

(4) It’s good PR:  Sponsoring an event or volunteering your business’s time are great ways to not only raise awareness about a specific cause but also promote your business. You can get the word out about the event by posting on your social media platforms and your website.

(5) Care about what your customers care about: People like businesses with a strong sense of purpose. Nine out of ten millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause, and two-thirds say they use social media to engage with CSR. As this age group is likely to be either part of your customer base or your workforce, understanding what drives them will keep your business front-of-mind. Initiatives could include donating leftover stock to a local homeless shelter this Christmas, reducing your energy consumption by turning off office electricity overnight in the winter months or by using locally sourced suppliers.

(6) Make it personal: The personality of a business is far more memorable than its business plan. The softer elements of a company have an increasingly powerful effect on its attractiveness and appeal to customers and prospects. Be authentic and true to your values with a compelling argument for your social responsibility strategy, and your customers will sense this.

Finally, as we all experience every Christmas, giving makes us feel good – humans are an inherently social species that has survived and thrived due to our instinct to care for each other.

Whatever your size, businesses have the power to make a difference to their communities and the wider world. Although strategies may be more difficult for SMBs to implement when restricted by budgets or when time-poor, customers will appreciate any show of support of the local community and the goodwill will certainly put you ahead of the competition.

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