Too small to succeed ? Challenging Social Responsibility

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We all know how big businesses are socially responsible, don’t we? From a buzzword to the new “way of managing business by considering the impact of activities on customers, employees and shareholders” (Businessweek), Corporate Social Responsibility  is now fully embracing corporate culture. Socially responsible projects and programs have attracted investments exponentially in the last decade.

Several studies show the link between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and financial performance. By understanding that in order to do well, one must do good, CSR strategies have contributed extensively to their profit-maximisation objectives. Moreover, by enhancing customer value, CSR impacts positively on both the profits and the image.

However, haven’t you ever wondered how “socially responsible” is the Bakery nearby, how does your mechanic take care of the used oil waste  or why your school doesn’t recycle paper?

The impact of a Coffee Company not recycling the used coffee capsules will always seem bigger than the impact of the Barman not recycling the used capsules. Nonetheless, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who roughly represent more than half of EU’s GDP and 99% of all companies in the EU are not held accountable.

So how come, we never consider them responsible. Isn’t time to acknowledge, they have a role to play in the destruction of Natural Resources as well?

2 thoughts on “Too small to succeed ? Challenging Social Responsibility

  1. It is indeed so that by concentrating on the big ones we seem to ignore that also smaller firms have a role to play. Attention of the CEO for this issue will most likely easier be achieved than in big business … since the CEO and environmental coordinator may be the same person! There are quiet some programmes targeting SME’s, such as UNIDO and UNEP’s Cleaner Production program. National Cleaner Production Centres around the world traditionally focus on technical issues, this – advising small businesses about CSR – might be a natural next step for them. Perhaps someone can ask them?

  2. It seems to me that no matter the size of the enterprise, the crux of the question is: are all the employees on board? This is harder to achieve for bigger companies; in SMEs an enthusiastic and committed owner / CEO can really ‘infect’ the whole staff.

    However there are some big companies that have succeeded – I suspect not many, but Interface, Kraft and Scandic Hotels are probably good examples.

    What happens when a big company ‘goes green’ but leaves the employees behind? Well, quite a lot can still happen, for instance in procurement and other ‘regulated’ areas of work. But still, sustainability depends on many, many small decisions made every day by every employee. And no employer can breathe down the neck of every employee every minute of the working day. So in my opinion engaging the employees is crucial.

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