Viva la Small Business CSR!

Photo Credit: Warren Smith / PA Wire


Following on from the recent post on 5 Reasons Against CSR from Smaller Businesses I thought it would make sense to explore the main examples of great initiatives that countless smaller businesses actively deliver without knowing it’s part of a bigger better business picture. 

As a consultant I have the ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ mantra ringing in my ears day and night. If I’m completely honest I don’t completely accept that, especially for smaller businesses. Sometimes you know it’s working and can spend excessive resource measuring and administering. Yes, there will come a time when measurement is essential but with grassroots entrepreneurs over management can kill stone dead any energy or innovation. 

Anyway, here’s the 5 most common ‘unknown’ CSR activities within SMEs: 


Sponsoring a children’s sport club 

Especially in my home city of Liverpool football is almost a religion to some and junior football is literally everywhere. Usually small businesses connected via family members or friends of the children are responsible for sponsoring team kits and equipment. I use the term ‘sponsor’ with some licence. In many cases it is a donation rather than getting anywhere near a return on investment expectation, but sponsorship is what it should be called. 

Providing flexible hours for employees to manage care issues 

Even if it’s allowing an employee to come in fifteen minutes late or leave early to collect a child from school that’s still flexible working. Whilst SMEs are unaware of the complete range of flexible working options available, most will informally offer one or two variations to look after their employees. 

Recycling / Energy saving 

Environmental issues are pushing the CSR agenda forward and there can’t be many small businesses remaining that are either forced through legislation or a desire to reduce costs. There are countless support mechanisms to assist SMEs in with ever improving services but nearly everybody know recycles paper or is trying to save fuel / energy. 

Using local suppliers 

Encouraging businesses to use local suppliers campaigns have been around for ever. In the UK the Federation of Small Business (FSB) are pro-actively promoting their ‘Keep Trade Local’ manifesto. You could almost replace ‘Keep it Local’ with a the grander sounding ‘sustainable procurement’ as the two are much closer than fee charging supply chain consultants would have you believe; reduced road miles, supporting local economies, improved supplier relationships. 

Charity Fundraising Events 

Do you know a business that hasn’t help raise money for a good cause? Cash donations, fundraising balls, themed work days, Santa Dash, sponsored sit in a bath of custard / head shave. Most SMEs approach good causes as an act of pure philanthropy offering cash or in-kind support without expectation of return and there’s nothing too wrong with that at all. 

An extended list could also easily include employee training, supporting local schools, employing local people, etc. etc, but you should be getting the picture by now. 

These five highlighted areas are wonderful examples of instinctive CSR / good business / philanthropy that demonstrates the local understanding and willingness by owner / managers to allow business resources to be diverted away from core business objectives because they feel it’s the right thing to do.  

Smaller business are a furnace of raw, energetic, well meaning and often creative CSR activity that often goes overlooked. Imagine for a moment the possibilities with just a little more coordination, strategic thought, active communication and improved specialist support. We could see  numerous small initiatives multiplied across the millions of SMEs internationally to provide a world changing combined overall impact – viva la small business CSR! 


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9 thoughts on “Viva la Small Business CSR!

  1. Tom Snell

    Ah yes, the small business CSR that they don’t even realize is CSR. I think that a lot of people enjoy working for small businesses, despite the lack of benefits that can come with larger firms, simply because they do all of these things with sincerity. Although there’s value in formalizing their CSR to be more strategic and include better communication, the mentioned initiatives don’t feel forced and are often implemented by owners/management/employees who genuinely care.

    Love hearing about small business CSR, so thanks for this post and the 5 reasons one.




  2. Brett Cassidy

    Couldn’t agree more – while measurement is certainly necessary to some extent (I am a big proponent of attempting to value and measure social/environmental performace), there is certainly waste associated with the simple function of measurement. Check out Profit Beyond Measure by H. Thomas Johnson for a really thorough, well-written exploration of this idea.



  3. andra anastasiu

    Hmm…after reading this post I was thinking…I keep seeing “SMEs should do social media! SMEs should do CSR! Should do this and that” If they did all these activities, just like the ‘big ones’ don’t you think they would grow? We wouldn’t have SMEs anymore. I believe they are SMEs just because of the fact that they don’t have all the necesarry resources. I am excluding here the SMEs that don;t want to be anything more, like family shops. What do you think about this insight?

    Best regards,
    Andra Anastasiu


    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Andra

      The key to the SME world is understanding their strained resources, especially time and cash. Like anything it’s about prioritising what can offer the most appropriate return on investment (financial, social or environmental) for each individual organisation’s stage of development and core commercial objectives.

      I am personally wary of my day job as a CSR strategist / consultant and how much pressure I am placing on any smaller business to take on any additional workload. SME owner / managers can often mistake guidance (as that is all that it should be) by consultants and business support for demands and carry out the suggestion without making their own decision about it being the best course of action.

      The world needs businesses of all shapes and sizes to efficiently service the needs of their customers, and I’m passionate about smaller businesses being better, not necessarily bigger. Size doesn’t always matter!



  4. Paul Dunn

    Good stuff as always, David.

    Of course, the key is to make it a HABIT. So let’s get all SMEs involved with B1G1 — imagine that!

    Be sure to keep on doing …..

    ….. things that amaze you (and us).


      1. Paul Dunn

        Not yet, David.

        But 2011 is the year.

        And of course, B1G1 does not put any load on SMEs to get their giving going and then to leverage that out to their customers (your point in one of the replies above).

        You might also want to check the new iteration of the Giving Card as well:

        Great to be connected with you, David, in this truly fascinating, ever-evolving area.


      2. davidcoethica Post author

        I’m constantly amazed at the connectivity available online with great causes, knowledge and people like yourself Paul.

        I think I need to go and brush up on B1G1. If there is anything I could do for the cause be sure to let me know.



  5. Paul Dunn

    Thank you, David.

    When B1G1 launches in Europe (even though we already have a limited number of clients there) we’ll need to connect with people who really can reach out and make B1G1 a giving habit in the SME world and beyond.

    So anything you can do or suggest we do to make that happen will be brilliant.

    We feel privileged to be connected with you. Let’s see what we can make happen.



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