Small Businesses Can Be Champions Too

Small Businesses Can Be Champions Too

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has traditionally been the domain of the corporate sector and has been well researched in large organizations. Small and medium-sized enterprises have received much less attention. A recent study of 24 small socially responsible enterprises in the United Kingdom found good examples of CSR limitations and opportunities by exploring exemplary characteristics of the companies. Key areas of investigation were the influence of managerial values, the nature of CSR activities, motivation for and benefits from engaging in CSR and challenges faced. The study demonstrated that small enterprises tend to learn through networking and from their peers. CSR initiatives, therefore, require strong leadership or “championing” from highly-motivated individuals like owner–managers and examples set by other companies. At i.d.o., we strive to be such an exemplary company and are pleased to share one of our CSR activities. Being a smaller company does create both limitations and opportunities related to CSR. We found that to overcome the limitations – a most notable one being money – we have to be creative in identifying meaningful opportunities that are appropriate and possible for us. One example is our ongoing relationship with the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. A few years ago, we assisted with the interiors as part of a major renovation of their local Jordan facility. We were inspired and gratified by the overwhelming appreciation the YMCA staff showed for the contributions i.d.o. brought to the overall project. A few weeks following the completion of that project, we received a call from a manager who needed assistance with a small project in his facility. Shortly thereafter, we got yet another request from a different facility. These requests were small in scope but critically important to each of these managers and their facility. We determined that the organization had a real need for ongoing facility management support. Furthermore, facility managers had a sincere desire make the best, most cost-effective and appropriate decisions when it came to facility use. With that, i.d.o. prepared an unsolicited proposal for the YMCA’s leadership. Our proposal detailed an “in-kind” service program for all the YMCA’s facilities in Central Indiana. We set up a process whereby the managers could access a form on-line and request an i.d.o. designer’s assistance. All requests are managed against a monthly budget of 24 hours (3 days) of design work a month at no cost to the YMCA. Each month, at least one design associate is prepared to spend time working on a small YMCA project. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis operates 12 branches serving more than 171,000 people from very diverse neighborhoods. The organization maintains a long and rich tradition of building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities. They do so much more than serve the people in their communities – they help them thrive. It is our hope that our small contribution of time and talent each month helps assure that the facilities and their interior environments remain as beautiful, functional and supportive as the important services their organization provides to our community. We have learned that, as a small business, participation in the community goes beyond offering sales and quality service. We have demonstrated that a company need not be a large corporation or commit significant revenue to be a conscientious and socially responsible corporate citizen. At i.d.o., responsible corporate citizenship means being involved in positive ways to help others, finding ways to offer goods and services that make the world better, being a good neighbor, providing fair wages to those who work for us, and supplying the best goods and services that we can at a price that those needing our services can afford. As owners/employees of a small business, we aren’t only business people. We are also participants in the community within which we live and work. Have you considered how you and your business might be more socially responsible? How can you help cultivate and grow positive change in your community that benefits both you and your neighbors? We welcome you to share your ideas and experience on corporate social responsibility on our blog. Submitted By: Jill Mendoza

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