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15 Unique Approaches to Incorporate Corporate Social Responsibility in Small Businesses

7 Mins read

In search of unique ways to incorporate corporate social responsibility in small businesses, we reached out to fifteen top CEOs and founders. Their innovative strategies range from offering free language classes to sourcing locally and hiring community members. Dive in to discover the wealth of insights they shared.

Offer Free Language Classes

One unique initiative that our team has pioneered in recent years is offering free language classes twice per quarter for underprivileged kids. Not only does this give children in our local area a chance to broaden their horizons, but it also provides them a safe place to hang out and make new friends. 

Our team likes this type of social responsibility because language learning is specific to our business, and the kids we teach are right here in our own community. We prefer this over simply donating to a charity with which we have no personal connection or control over how they spend their funds.

Mathias Johansen, Co-Founder and COO, Guide2Fluency

Hold Sustainable-Product Giveaways and Education Campaigns

Combine information, education, and communication campaigns with sustainable-product giveaways. Choose a deserving NGO or community for this project, so that the giveaways go to people who need them the most. Some examples of sustainable items are bamboo toothbrushes and straws, reusable tumblers, eco-bags, and such. 

In our case, as an appliance company, we give out sustainable and energy-efficient gadgets to marginalized communities. These are solar-powered lamps, chargers, and portable solar panels for households that have little to no electricity access. It’s our way of giving back to the community, while also doing our fair share for the planet.

Meg Hellerstedt, President, Sylvane

Promote Personal Charity Through Business

Small businesses are interesting in that corporate social responsibility can often reflect what the individuals in the company champion outside of work. Running a travel website, we’ve committed to promoting our favorite charity, Pencils of Promise, on every web page we publish. 

This charity builds schools in underdeveloped areas of the world and helps give children an education they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. I’ve personally donated to this cause long before creating our small business, and now it’s fantastic that I can use our platform to influence more people to become aware of Pencils of Promise and donate, too. 

Scott Sidders, Co-Founder, Scott & Yanling Media Inc.

Partner with Local Causes

Executing a CSR initiative on a budget, we guided a small-business client to partner with a local cause, aligning their services with a community project. The collaboration was cost-effective, requiring minimal financial investment but offering strong community engagement and brand visibility. 

The campaign was a low-cost, high-impact strategy that utilized organic social-media outreach and local media relations to amplify their involvement and commitment to social value.

Scott Baradell, CEO, Idea Grove

Create Access Programs and Scholarships

As a test-prep company, we help kids get into their dream colleges. We recognize, however, that each student faces a unique journey—some face significantly more barriers than others, whether financial or otherwise.

Because we are a small business trying to provide necessary services within the education sector, we’ve prioritized creating access programs and scholarships for students who may not be able to afford or access tutoring services otherwise. 

Incorporating social responsibility in a small business means ensuring that your services are having as much of a positive impact as they can. It doesn’t need to be an entirely separate thing—it could be a small expansion on something you are already doing or providing.

Adam Shlomi, Founder, SoFlo Tutors

Establish a Pro Bono Department

A unique approach for small businesses to incorporate corporate social responsibility (CSR) is to establish a pro bono legal clinic. We have established a legal clinic at our firm that provides pro bono legal counsel and support to underprivileged individuals and community non-profit organizations. Our legal department dedicates a predetermined quantity of time on a monthly basis to deliver various services, including contract evaluations, counsel on regulatory adherence, and more.

Moreover, by benefiting our local community, this endeavor elevates our CSR profile. This action showcases a dedication to the fundamental tenet of equitable access to legal aid and justice. Furthermore, it cultivates benevolence and fortifies our connections among members of the community. By incorporating CSR in this fashion, our organization demonstrates its commitment to ethical principles and society at large while also capitalizing on its legal proficiency to effect significant change.

John Truong, Managing Director and Attorney, Alliance Compensation & Litigation Lawyers

Sponsor Local Groups and Charities

Small businesses like ours often have a strong local presence, which offers a great opportunity to make a difference in the local community. We talk to our colleagues to find out what neighborhood groups and charities they are involved in, and look to sponsor those organizations. 

Recent examples include funding for children from a local special school to attend a theater performance, and providing bursaries to help students with their college studies. We love this approach because it feels personal, and directly benefits the communities we work in.

Kim Allcott, Partner, Allcott Associates LLP

Engage Staff and Clients in CSR

One unique approach is to listen to your staff and customers. At my company, we’ve made it a priority to actively engage with our employees and clients, seeking their input on the social and environmental causes that matter most to them. This has led to initiatives like donating a portion of our profits to local charities our employees are passionate about and implementing eco-friendly practices suggested by our customers. 

By being attentive to their concerns and values, we’ve fostered a stronger sense of community within our organization and made a positive impact on the issues that resonate with those who matter most to our business.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO, JohannesLarsson.com

Set Up Staff Volunteer Programs

Setting up staff volunteer programs is one original way for small businesses to embrace corporate social responsibility. I started a “Community Champions” program at my former small firm, wherein staff members were encouraged to donate a specific number of hours of labor to nearby charitable organizations while they were in the office. 

Besides helping us give back to the community, this improved staff morale, collaboration, and skill development. It had a beneficial effect, improving the reputation of our business, drawing in socially concerned customers, and giving our employees a feeling of direction. Employee volunteerism is a potent tool for bringing corporate ideals and social responsibility together.

Perry Zheng, Founder and CEO, Pallas

Turn Socials into Fundraisers

One super-simple way we’ve incorporated corporate social responsibility into our small business is to turn our monthly team socials into fundraisers. We hold monthly remote trivia socials centered on occasions like Black History Month, Pride Month, and Women’s History Month. 

As part of the prize, the winning team gets to choose a related philanthropy to direct a company-sponsored donation to. This gesture shows that the company cares about the causes and gives employees autonomy and participation in the giving.

Michael Alexis, CEO, Virtual Team Building

Implement a Give-Back Model

A unique approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a small business is the “Give-Back Model.” At dasFlow, we’ve integrated this by offering a “Design for a Cause” line of custom athleisure apparel. For each item sold, a percentage goes to a chosen social or environmental initiative, directly involving our customers in the giving process.

This model allows us to be socially responsible without compromising on profitability. It engages our customers in a shared cause, builds brand loyalty, and brings meaning to each purchase. It’s a win-win that reflects our ethos of combining business goals with positive societal impact.

Nicolas Krauss, Founder and CEO, dasFlow Custom Polo Shirts

Launch a Sustainability Partners Program

A distinctive way to integrate CSR into a small business is by implementing a “Sustainability Partners” program. In my experience, we partner with local environmental organizations in our home country and the countries we ship to, such as Kuwait, Qatar, and Canada. 

For every product sold, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to these partners to support conservation efforts, reforestation projects, or other eco-friendly initiatives. This approach promotes sustainability and connects our business to the local communities where we operate. It’s a win-win, as it furthers our CSR goals and allows our customers to contribute to positive environmental change with their purchases. Plus, it aligns our global business with local causes, making a broader impact.

Dhari Alabdulhadi, CTO and Founder, Ubuy Kuwait

Initiate a Carbon Offset Subscription Program

In my small business, we initiated a “Carbon Offset Subscription” program. For each subscription, we calculate the customer’s purchase’s carbon footprint and invest in environmental projects to offset it. This unique approach not only mitigates our environmental impact but also involves customers in our sustainability efforts, aligning their purchases with positive environmental action.

Gil Clark Jr., CEO, GH Clark

Provide Services Free to Nonprofits

Incorporating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into a small business can be both meaningful and impactful. One unique approach we’ve implemented is the “Skill-for-Good” initiative. Every month, our team dedicates a set number of hours to offer our services free of charge to local nonprofits or community projects. 

For instance, as a digital marketing firm, we’ve assisted a local food bank with their online presence, helping them reach a wider audience for donations. This initiative not only supports the community but also provides our team with a sense of purpose. It showcases that even small businesses can make a significant difference without a hefty budget, simply by leveraging their expertise for the greater good.

Matthew Sims, Personal Injury Lawyer, Rapoport Weisberg & Sims, P.C.

Source Locally and Hire Community Members

In my business journey, weaving corporate social responsibility (CSR) into the fabric of our operations has been a rewarding venture. Our unique approach centers around what I call “Community Threads.”

We initiated a program where we source materials locally, collaborating with nearby artisans and suppliers. This not only supports the community but also reduces our carbon footprint. For instance, instead of sourcing packaging materials from distant manufacturers, we partner with local artisans to create eco-friendly, reusable packaging.

This approach extends to employment practices. We prioritize hiring from within the community, providing job opportunities and contributing to local economic growth. It’s a dual-purpose strategy, enhancing our social impact while fostering a sense of community ownership.

Sai Blackbyrn, CEO, Coach Foundation

Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Featured, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.

Corporate responsibility stock image PlNA/Shutterstock

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