Corporate responsibility programs can help businesses entice customers, attract and retain talent, assure investors, reduce operating costs, improve employee morale and enhance a company’s reputation. However, business owners should understand the benefits and limitations of corporate responsibility programs in order to choose an initiative that benefits the community and the company.
Convincing shareholders or other financial decision makers to allocate resources to a program designed to benefit something other than the company’s bottom line can be the first obstacle a small business owner must overcome. To sway reluctant company leaders or employees, a small business owner can explain that customer buying decisions are influenced by company behavior.
To be successful, corporate responsibility programs must be embraced and supported by top management and woven into company culture and operations. Stakeholders will soon become skeptical of one-time initiatives or programs that come and go. Timing also can be a problem. Corporate responsibility programs introduced to sway public opinion immediately after a company crisis can do more reputation damage if they are perceived by customers and stakeholders as insincere.
Small businesses owners should not assume that customers and community members know about the company’s investment in socially responsible programs. They should not only explain the company’s actions but how these actions are helping improve the community, Langert explains. Including a description of company initiatives in an annual report or taking pictures of an employee volunteer effort and posting to a company’s website are strategies for communicating a company’s corporate responsibility efforts.
The business benefits of corporate responsibility programs are not always immediately tangible. For example, while it’s difficult to link investments in corporate responsibility programs to increased profits, there is evidence that these programs can protect the reputation of an organization during times of company crisis.