Corporate social responsibility

Social responsibility is not a new idea but it’s having a greater impact on how businesses are run than ever before. The idea that companies have a responsibility to the communities that support them doesn’t seem that radical, but it’s only in recent years that it’s become a common feature of corporate culture. Here, we take a look at how social responsibility policies can also benefit your business, too.

What is social responsibility?
Social responsibility is an important concept that has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Essentially, it’s the idea that businesses need to balance the drive for profit with activities and actions that benefit the communities they depend on. This can manifest itself in a number of different ways. Businesses may refer to their environmental responsibilities (such as sourcing eco-friendly products, recycling in the workplace, and utilising renewable energies), their responsibilities to the workforce (such as fair pay and trade union representation), or their community responsibilities (such as charity fundraising and supporting local causes).

Corporate social responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a common feature of many large-scale businesses and organisations. Companies as influential as McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Ben & Jerry’s have all attempted to introduce ideas of social responsibility into their company philosophy. This may mean using Fair Trade ingredients – as with Ben & Jerry’s – or it may mean organising and taking part in local community fundraising events or actions – as McDonald’s franchisees often do.

Social responsibility theories are also beginning to have a greater impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As new technologies make it easier to organise, advertise, and execute fundraising activities, SMEs are finding that they can make a difference, too. You no longer need a big marketing budget – access to a large social media audience, a JustGiving page, and determination are more than enough.

Five reasons social responsibility is good for business

1. It helps attract top talent
It is regularly argued that the next generation of business owners and young professionals want something more personally satisfying from their careers. Millennials are often portrayed as being socially conscious and more willing to give something back to the community around them. They don’t want a career that provides them with a high standard of living if it makes them feel guilty in the process. They want a job that provides them with a high standard of living and helps those less fortunate than themselves. They want to be socially responsible professionals.

In order to attract the cream of the next generation’s crop, franchise companies are going to have to provide Millennials with some very good reasons to become franchisees, and not just financial incentives, either. One draw will be the fact that they put social responsibility at the centre of their operational philosophy and company culture. If franchises are to attract top talent in the future, they’ll need to provide the next generation with evidence that they care for the community too.

2. It has brand and reputational benefits
Though it may not be the reason you pursue socially responsible policies, there can be no denying that giving something back to the community, making charitable donations, or operating according to strict ethical code, can benefit your brand and its reputation. However, franchises need to be careful. If their ‘social responsibility drive’ is not grounded in a long-term investment plan, in which responsible policies are prioritised over a considerable amount of time, they could be perceived as inauthentic attempts to cash in on doing good. Customers aren’t stupid and they’re quick to call out marketing gimmicks when they think they’re being played, especially if that gimmick involves linking with a charity or social programme for personal gain, rather than altruistic reasons.

3. Help foster a sense of community
All business, no matter how big or small, are part of a community. On the higher end, companies like Amazon have come to dominate the economy of entire cities (Seattle). At the other end, local businesses play an integral role in the community and often act as a focus for social activity (e.g. the village post office or public house). Businesses depend on this community for custom and anything they can do to better the community or improve its health is likely to come back and benefit them too.

4. Develop a unique company culture and identity
In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on developing a healthy company/corporate culture. In some respects, this was kick-started by the dot-com boom and the emergence of global superpowers like Google. These companies revolutionised the workplace and supercharged the concept of company culture. Now, every business works hard to develop a unique (or not so unique) workplace culture that reflects their values and identity.

Pursuing socially responsible causes is one way of developing an individual company culture and identity. You establish who you are by what you do to support those in need. You express your values through the good work that you do. The right company culture can make your franchise a much more pleasant place to work and the most successful franchises will make a concerted effort to ensure that their charity work aligns with their brand vision.

5. Change the world…
Finally, social responsibility could be perceived as an attempt to make a difference and change the world. It’s a recognition, by businesses, that everything is not quite right with our society and that individuals and organisations have to step up and alter it themselves if we’re to make it better. From sourcing your products in an ethical manner and treating your staff in the right way to organising charitable events and sponsoring attempts to help local communities, businesses have a responsibility to help those people around them, many of whom are customers.

Corporate social responsibility doesn’t have to involve completely altruistic acts. Good franchises to own will pursue socially responsible policies because they are beneficial to both the company and the business. For most companies, it’s a win-win situation. You can give something back, show the local community that you care, and inspire client loyalty.