Boosting growth through CSR

When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR for short, there are typically three types of company, and they're all missing out on a massive growth opportunity.

By Lee Petts, managing director, Remsol.

There are those that have no idea what CSR is, there are those that know about CSR, but don't practice it, and there are those that practice CSR but don't tell anyone about it. So, what is CSR?

CSR is all about doing good, whilst also doing well. It's very much a cultural thing, and definitely not about ticking boxes, meaningless policies or publicity stunts used just to make you look good in the eyes of the public or your customers.

At it's most basic level, CSR is simply about recognising the positive role your business can have in its community, and then making an effort to play that role whilst also trying to avoid or better mitigate the negative impacts your business might have.

And it only has to be as time-consuming or expensive as you want to make it.

CSR and growth

Whilst engaging in CSR shouldn't be something you do purely to generate positive media attention, there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't tell everyone about your efforts and successes. For a start, you might inspire others to follow your lead, but there will come a time when you're bidding for a sale and the thing that marks you out from your competition - and wins you the work - is the visible effort you make to be a good corporate citizen.

According to a report in 2014 produced by CDP, companies with CSR and sustainability strategies listed on the S&P 500 (an American stock index similar to the FTSE here) outperform those that don't have them.

The KaBo Sports example

Recently, as a sponsor of the New Business of the Year category in Lancashire's Be Inspired Business Awards, or BIBAs, I had the pleasure of meeting KaBo Sports from Chorley.

KaBo Sports is a supplier of high quality, low cost hockey sticks that rival much bigger and more established sports equipment brands. But as well as selling hockey sticks at a profit, there's another purpose behind the business.

Founder, Matt Banks, is himself an avid field hockey player that's genuinely passionate about his sport and keen to encourage more people into it. But he could see that the price of hockey sticks was a barrier, and that's what he sought to overcome with the launch of KaBo Sports.

So, as well as supplying hockey sticks and growing into a thriving business, KaBo Sports is also connecting with communities too. Unlike its much bigger competitors, it has a personality that its customers want to engage with.

Just extend what you already do

Over the years, we've found that CSR works best when it's a natural extension of the things your business already does, and that's in some way linked to your brand like in the KaBo Sports example.

So, for instance, if you're an accountancy or legal practice, you could consider running a free "start-up surgery" every month where you provide entrepreneurs and new businesses with advice that will help them succeed. You'll soon find that your reputation spreads, and inevitably some of the businesses you help will turn to you for your services on a paid basis at some point in the future, so everybody wins.

If you're a car dealership or leasing business, you could host a quarterly event aimed at promoting road safety - who knows, it might also help you sell a few more cars.

The ways in which you can use your existing skills and contacts to benefit other sections of your community are literally endless. Start today and watch how your business grows, outperforming your nearest rivals and enabling you to also recruit and retain top talent.