The importance of CSR in your small business

Niki Fuchs explains why corporate social responsibility is integral to her company's business strategy and its continuing growth trajectory.

The serviced office sector is booming and is benefitting from a prolonged period of growth. But does it need to show more corporate social responsibility?

Serviced office provider Office Space in Town (OSiT) estimates that the UK serviced office market, which is one of the fastest-growing industry sectors, could be worth between £62 billion and £126 billion by 2025. OSiT has been a beneficiary of this impressive growth, and since being founded in 2009 has become one of the UK’s fastest-growing serviced office providers, increasing its revenue nearly 20 per cent year on year to £17.25 million in 2016.

As OSiT, and the wider serviced office industry continues to grow, there is an increasing realisation that businesses of all sizes, including small and growth companies have an increasingly important role in being accountable for their impact on the environment and overall contribution to the wider society. OSiT’s success lies not only in its eloquently-designed offices but in its commitment to implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies, recognising that such considerations are key to its growth and success.

Implementing corporate social responsibility into the business strategy

It is widely recognised that while a business can leave its footprint on its environment, it is even more important to consider how best to manage this impact. While definition of what CSR means vary, there is an overall recognition that it is an approach to the sustainable development challenges and the way that businesses manage their processes to deliver positive economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.

It is important that businesses ensure that they hold themselves accountable for the impact of their operations on the environment and society and are committed to managing CSR as an employer, prospective employer and to their clients. CSR was once seen to be solely the responsibility of multinational corporations and for smaller businesses purely an afterthought. SMEs and growth businesses are now increasingly realising that they must implement policies which contribute positively to the environment and the wider society. A considered CSR approach regardless of the company size is central for any prospering business and is a benchmark by which stakeholders increasingly measure its appeal.

That is why a CSR policy should not be seen as an option but should be integrated into the everyday operations of a prospering business. It has become increasingly important to develop clear guidelines for employees and suppliers, ensuring that a business extensively invests in staff development, supports charities and commits to being green. Being good at business means doing good as a business.

Investing in staff development

Businesses must ensure that staff are provided with the opportunity to engage with CSR even if the benefits do not directly complement the business strategy. It is important to ensure that employees feel valued and are provided with a highly motivated team working in an environment that actively supports their learning and development. Staff should feel encouraged and inspired to feel positive about the impact that their work has on the wider environment and society.

OSiT has focused on incorporating such initiatives; each year OSIT’s operational team chooses a charity or a good cause, which has a personal resonance with our employees and is selected by a collective vote. Each of OSiT’s serviced offices across the country raise money individually for charitable causes and the business as a whole provides employees with the opportunities to carry out community work. However, this ethos can be reflected throughout an entire supply chain with those at the top setting an example for all to follow. This involves a recognition that basic policies such as using fair trade products are small changes that have much bigger consequences.

A considered and thorough CSR policy should deliver value for the entire community and engender a strengthening bond between team members, fostering a collaborative working environment and increasing productivity. A collaborative culture that engages with the community is positive to the health of any business.

Understanding the wider impact on the environment

Businesses are quickly realising that the impact on the environment cannot be underestimated and their policies must take this into account. The supply chain must be modified to ensure sustainability is placed at the forefront of a company policy. For example, across its 11 offices OSiT has ensured that it encourages sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings and operations and this is reflected throughout its entire supply chain.

A CSR policy must also be placed at the forefront of any business model, encouraging and inspiring employees to take action, ensuring that responsibility is maintained for the environment and a wide array of charities are supported. It is important to remember that taking accountability for the environment and the community have much larger and positive consequences in the long term.

A strong SME social corporate responsibility policy must embed the principles of investing in staff development, supporting charities and committing to being green into the day to day operations and management of a business. Whilst, growth is important it must be managed carefully to take into account the impact on the community and the environment. A considered and thorough CSR policy must endeavour to implement principles of sustainability throughout the entire supply chain and inspire staff of all levels to engage with causes which are of personal significance.

Niki Fuchs is managing director at Office Space in Town

Further reading on corporate social responsibility

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