Written by: Mara Hawkins

If you are small business owner and looking for social and/or environmental ways in which to benefit your community, it can be challenging to choose outlets that fit with your company’s goals. With the popularity of socially-minded jargon increasing in everyday conversation, it can be intimidating to establish your corporate social responsibility (CSR) as authentic and align them with your brand.

The basics of CSR can be summed up through the concept of the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit!

You may ask yourself why you need to develop a CSR plan. There are many reasons. A CSP plan encourages companies to be more innovative, productive and competitive, it builds your brand by fostering positive relations with the community and potential customers/ investors, it provides various tax advantages, and enhances employee and community relations to name a few.

The sooner you develop your CSR plan the sooner you are able to align it with your brand and policies. A great example of synchronizing CSR to brand is McDonald’s. Their goal is to make children and parents happy with their happy meals but they are also known for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. If you think that’s all they are doing, think again. They have set goals on nutrition and wellbeing, sustainable supply chain, environmental impact and employee experience; all of which form a comprehensive CSR strategy that encompasses all aspects of their business.  In the words of McDonald’s VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, Bob Langert: “CSR is not a program, initiative or function, but a mindset that is incorporated into every aspect of business planning and operations.”

So how do you establish a CSR mindset within your business? You align your CSR goals to the charitable endeavors and social goals that are important to you and any of your company’s stakeholders (employees, customers, etc.)  By seeking out and using employee and customer feedback, you are including them in the decision-making process and encouraging their participation in the creation and roll out.

Then the fun begins. You must decide how you would like to implement your CSR strategy. For example, will your organize an employee fundraising or food drive? Match employee donations to a cause? Encouraging volunteerism in the community?  The International Organization for Standardization has a great guide for developing your CSR policies.

To learn more about how to become a socially-minded business, look for upcoming CYBF workshops across Alberta in 2012.

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