Smaller companies seek support for social responsibility

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Most managing directors recognise the benefits of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, but are deterred by a lack of guidance and resources, a new survey shows.

Conducted for Business in the Community’s ‘Business Impact’ Task Force, the Mori survey reveals strong support for more government assistance to develop small business CSR programmes to the levels sustained by large companies.

The Task Force, chaired by BT, is hoping to identify and promote CSR best practices which maximize competitive and social benefits for participants. A surprising number of small to medium enterprises are already involved at a community level, indicating that CSR is now on the agenda for UK businesses of all sizes.

Mark Hunt, national head of KPMG’s owner managed business team, said: “The results indicate a need for SME involvement for CSR to play a truly effective role in the UK economy.

“At the moment SMEs are defining social responsibility as a simple contribution to the community, their employees’ happiness and the environment, but do not yet register CSR as an issue which can be incorporated into their core business.

“Their position in the supply chain may be at risk at a time when many blue chip companies are insisting that their suppliers meet basic ‘green’ criteria.”

Earlier Mori research* showed that 56% of consumers cited the way companies treat their employees and commitment to the community as important factors in forming an impression of a particular company.

Two thirds of the SMEs surveyed agreed that an accreditation symbol would be a useful tool for acknowledging companies’ involvement in the community. The two main barriers to involvement in CSR programmes were money and time.

Only two small companies were among the 36 short listed at last week’s BITC Awards for Excellence, hosted by Prince Charles in central London. The ‘Business Impact’ Task Force hopes to use the results of this survey to encourage more SMEs to integrate CSR programmes into their business strategy.

“We are encouraged by the awareness amongst SMEs of the potential of CSR to drive business forward,” says Bill Cockburn, group managing director of BT, and chairman of the Task Force. “The survey provides us with some practical suggestions from small business on how they would like to be supported in this development.”

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