While businesses have always been aware that what they do has an impact on society and the environment, now is the first time many have decided to do anything about it. The cynics will always argue that the only thing that’s important to businesses is to make a profit, but studies have shown that ‘corporate citizenship’ is becoming increasingly important for the long-term health of businesses.

Small businesses are also doing their bit

While it used to be the case that only large organisations with huge profits would get involved in corporate social responsibility programmes, now many smaller businesses are showing their commitment and doing their bit. One example of the dramatic difference even a relatively small business can make is the recent work of a UK office fruit supplier.

Fruitful Office committed to planting one tree in Malawi for every basket of fruit it sold. The beneficiaries of this programme are the Malawian families who benefit from the fruit and firewood the trees provide as well as the income generation that results from the growing of the seedlings and the planting of the trees. Although it started small, the SME has already planted more than 1.6 million trees.

Another UK SME that has introduced a similar programme is Piccolo Foods, which has committed to donating one pouch of baby food to charity for every one bought in-store.

The popularity of employee volunteer days

Many employees now want to ‘do good’ and be involved in companies that have a positive impact through their CSR initiatives. One strategy that has become extremely popular, particularly among smaller companies that do not have the resources to put their own CSR programme in place, is to introduce employee volunteer days.

In addition to their existing paid holiday leave, employers are choosing to give their workforce one or two extra days paid leave a year to volunteer in the local community. Whether it’s cleaning outdoor areas, helping out at a food bank or painting a local community centre, many businesses are finding this is a cost-effective way to have a positive impact on the world around them.

There are also business benefits to such an approach. Giving your team volunteering days can boost the morale of the workforce and change the way employees view the business, potentially increasing their motivation. It’s also a great way to raise the awareness of the brand in the local community and align your business with the goals and aspirations of local people. And you never know, play your cards right and you might even get a mention in the local paper!

What are the best examples of CSR you’ve seen from UK businesses? Would you think more of your employer if it was involved in CSR programmes? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  

If you take a look at the websites of many of the UK’s largest organisations, somewhere among all the blurb you’ll find a carefully worded statement about the business’s commitment to ‘sustainability’, ‘citizenship’ or ‘socially responsibility’. For many years, simply vocalising the intent to do their bit was about all you’d see from many businesses, but now all that has changed.