‘Tis the season for your business to make a difference

Here, Rowena Perrott, general manager at Boxtopia, explores the real business benefits to corporate social responsibility.

Christmas is approaching and the festive season goes hand in hand with the spirit of corporate social responsibility (CSR). A CSR strategy is a business’s way to make a commitment to charitable or environmental initiatives – to give something back to the community locally or nationally.

For a more complete background to CSR, Growth Business already has a range of excellent articles that you can read. To summarise, CSR covers a range of activities and has the benefits of attracting and retaining employees, raising the local profile of your business and promoting sustainable practices that benefit the environment.

With Christmas 2017 almost here, I want to use a bit of Christmas spirit (and some helpful comments from other businesses I’ve spoken to) to encourage you to kickstart your CSR strategy for 2018 and beyond.

Give a gift to a good cause

The act of giving has always been an essential part of Christmas. I believe that every business, however large or small, has something to give at this time of year.

You could take inspiration from the example of Cocofina. Brand manager Paola Toskva explains, “Our customers are highly conscious and expects us to be sustainable and ethical. We donate 10p per case to Action Against Hunger, a global charity tackling child hunger from the markets we source our products from.”

Cocofina’s strategy is not limited to the Christmas season, but if your business can’t afford to commit to a long term donation scheme, a month-long commitment to donate X per cent of each sale throughout December could be a great way to get started with CSR. If you run a retail business, it may also encourage customers to buy more than they normally would.

An alternative donation scheme comes from Piccolo Foods. The baby food manufacturers donate one pouch to charity for each pouch bought in store. Again, this could be something that your business can replicate in some way over the Christmas season. You wouldn’t have to copy the ‘One for One’ model, but you could commit to one donation per 10 or 20 products sold, or even make a one-off gift of your products or services based on what you have capacity for.

Be active in your local community

Another theme at Christmas is family and community. There are all sorts of ways to get involved with local charities.

The sales director of the Shredall SDS Group, Nik Williams, told me how his company donated a tonne of cardboard to a ‘Big Sleep Out’ event in Nottingham (where the company’s head office is based). The event was run by Framework, a local homelessness charity. Volunteers slept outside, on or under the cardboard, to raise over £20,000 for a community nurse to work with people sleeping on the streets.

The needs of local charities could be all kinds of things. At this time of year, keep a special eye out for food banks and charities that work with children or vulnerable adults. Over the winter, these organisations will be particularly hard pressed to keep their clients safe and healthy. Donations of food, practical items or simply your time could go a long way.

This kind of activity excites employees and creates a taste for CSR throughout your company, which will make any strategy more sustainable in the long term.

Don’t forget the environment

Cultivating an environmental focus in your CSR strategy doesn’t relate directly to Christmas, but I wanted to go off-theme for a short section to bring up this important aspect of social responsibility.

December is actually a very good time to think about what your business could do to be ‘greener’ as January is a natural time to implement new strategies. At my company, we like to encourage our customers to recycle our boxes when they’ve finished with them, or reuse them for other purposes. It’s a simple thing, but we believe it’s important when you work with materials that can be easily recycled.

Other ideas could be to look at cycle to work or lift sharing incentives for the new year, or asking employees for where they think your business could improve. Getting employee input is always a great way to increase their interest and engagement with any scheme that you come up with.

Don’t wait ‘til next year

One of the biggest barriers to setting up a CSR strategy is simply getting started. Christmas 2017 is the perfect time to do something good or put a new strategy in place. Get into the Christmas spirit – be generous, focus on the community around you, and kickstart your CSR strategy now.

Rowena Perrott, general manager at Boxtopia

Owen Gough

Fred Morissette

Owen Gough is a reporter for SmallBusiness.co.uk. He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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