Businesses are always looking for ways to reach out to their customers, their clients and the communities in which they are based. Large companies in particular feel they have a responsibility, not just to those working for them and those to whom they sell, but also to a wider community. The idea of CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility – has been around since the great entrepreneurs who built up business empires in the 19th century.
Take John Rockefeller, for example. Immensely wealthy due to his skills as a businessman, he was also a noted philanthropist who gave enormous sums of money to charities, including concentrating on medical research, education and public health. He was dedicated to giving back to the society that had helped create his riches.
In the same way, companies set up charities to benefit a wide range of people, and especially those who are disadvantaged. CSR is something of a mantra for owners, management boards and CEOs. It helps bring their brands to wider notice, creates a feel-good factor within the communities being helped, and is an important part of increasing the amount of business done.
Can small businesses benefit from CSR?
They certainly can. It’s the perfect chance to reach out to the local community when a business is relatively new and growing. Putting forward ideas to community leaders and voluntary organizations has the benefit of creating strong bonds between a business and its consumers, making a solid connection within the community and helping to become quickly recognized.
With social media so ubiquitous, there are many opportunities to enhance a company’s brand online. Tools such as Twitter means that with carefully written and targeted information a business can get involved with larger philanthropic campaigns, by tweeting information and support as well as offering volunteers and funding where appropriate.
For big businesses this is particularly useful – many have skilled social media teams to keep the message out there and let people know what they are doing to help communities.
Take two case studies below:
1. Tommie Copper: The New York-based sportswear company makes specialized compression gear for athletes, both professional and amateur, and has a strong community ethos through its Tommie Cares Foundation. Working to empower thousands of children with disabilities to get involved in sports activities, the company provides funding and staff to run the activities and encourages volunteers to help with events. The company operates the program throughout the United States; a much appreciated and good example of CSR.
2. McDonald’s: It may be a global giant of the fast food industry but McDonald’s supports a wide range of charities, in particular the Ronald McDonald Houses. These are situated all over the world and enable families who have children in hospital to stay close to where they are being treated.
Embedding CSR into a company’s organizational strategy makes a significant impact on raising brand visibility and engenders goodwill within local communities that benefit from the charitable outputs. Planning it in early in a company’s life can make a real difference to how the business is perceived and can develop in the future.