The impact of corporate social responsibility is not dependent on the size of your company. SMEs, for example, have often mistakenly perceived that because of their size, they will not have a big impact on a social cause, or a CSR strategy is not integral to their core business. Business owners and CEOs should question this and look at how CSR is evolving and is already improving brand differentiation and talent attraction.
Why is brand differentiation important? Improving your brand differentiation will allow you to create a unique connection with your customers. Whether you are establishing yourself as a leading advocate for wildlife in Australia or sustainable practices in fashion, going above and beyond helps your business to avoid simply being transactional, and to become relational.
On the talent attraction front, having a talented team is crucial for any SME to grow and operate. However, the awareness and exposure of SMEs are dwarfed by major corporations who have established themselves in the job market. This can be bridged by having a dedicated CSR program showing what the organisation can do for employees, rather than just what the employees can offer the organisation. Whether it be contributing to environmental conservation, employee empowerment or volunteering programs, these initiatives are what add to employees look for in a meaningful career.
As a result, by not having a CSR program or initiative for your company because of its size ignores the facts and benefits of what CSR brings.
Jellis Craig and Engineers Australia are two Australian SMEs which are actively engaged in charity partnerships and employee empowerment. This is in-turn has helped both companies differentiate itself in industry and attracting talent.
Jellis Craig is a specialist real estate SME headquartered in Melbourne. During his talk, “How can you increase the ROI of your community program for your business?” Peter Baines spoke about the company’s past unsuccessful efforts with CSR. Jellis Craig wanted to adopt a strategy which goes beyond the philanthropic transactional relationship of giving money every year to a charity. It lacked a sense of employee engagement and did not showcase the genuine commitments to CSR which the organisation embodied.
CEO Nick Dowling decided to start a separate foundation to partner with a charity which aligned with the values of Jellis Craig. Jellis Craig as a real estate business prides itself on “putting people into homes and helping them realise their dreams.'' Thus, partnering with Hands Across the Water who fund construction projects to build homes for children in Thailand made a lot of sense.
From a CSR standpoint, the commitment to Hands Across Water gave Jellis Craig a clear direction of what it wanted to achieve and how to engage with the charity and employees. One of the engagements was to organise a bike ride across Thailand for employees who volunteered to participate and raise money for the cause. This initiative takes the extra step of committing its resources to have employees proactively contributing to the charity, as opposed to just donating.
This example allows Jellis Craig to differentiate itself as a brand which achieves more than the baseline. They embody their values by helping people find homes in Australia, and to help build homes in Thailand. The engagement with its employees gives an additional point to potential talent, and that is Jellis Craig is an organisation which will support your passions outside of work, in the form of CSR.
Engineers Australia is Australia’s largest engineering association aimed at representing and supporting engineers. Engineering as a discipline and career has historically been dominated by men. Understanding that diversity in all facets of gender, ethnicity and background are the key cornerstones to helping organisations excel. Engineers Australia strives to change this conversation and is leading the movement for Australian engineers in the country and around the world.
Engineers Australia is working with CSR partners to improve diversity in society. One example of this CSR commitment is partnering with Robogals to support the Robogals’ Science and Engineering Day. The day is an annual event in Melbourne where girls participate in STEM-related workshops and activities.
Internally, Engineers Australia recognises the value of diversity in leadership and employees. This is seen with 43% of the Engineers Australia board being female as of June 2019 and the first female National President, Julie Hammer being inducted into the Associations Forum Hall of Fame. To wrap things up, Engineers Australia became a member of Pride in Diversity to push awareness and programs designed to assist employers with LGBTI employees.
CSR in this instance provides the platform and benchmark for how SMEs such as Engineers Australia look at employee wellbeing and organisational performance. By being an advocate for diversity now has cascading effects of supporting future female engineers, resulting in them joining the association.
The key message is to understand what your company wants to achieve from its CSR and to build a program that supports that. Whether it be to provide homes for children in Thailand by having your employees cycle through Thailand, or engaging in partnerships to promote diversity in engineering. Make it relevant to your organisation.
Don’t let the size of your company prevent you from giving back through corporate social responsibility activities - your bottom line will also benefit in return. By seeing how you support the community, your employees and customers will develop a deeper understanding of your business and brand. This is particularly important in attracting the next generation of talent who are driven to make a difference within your organisation and the world.