Corporate Responsibility – how can SMEs get involved?

What is corporate responsibility (CSR)? Corporate responsibility is defined as corporations having a responsibility to the groups and individuals it can affect such as its stakeholders and to society at large. Stakeholders can usually be defined as customers, suppliers, employees, larger communities, shareholders or even other financiers.

Corporate responsibility can also come in many different forms. Some companies choose to launch staff volunteer programmes where staff can volunteer their time to help those in need. Others may start a scheme in a country affected by adverse conditions, whether that is extreme poverty or a deadly disease outbreak. Whatever the motivation may be, don’t let the relative scale of your small business put you off getting involved.

Today we’re examining the CSR work of Fruitful Office – a London based fruit delivery company that specialises in providing fruit baskets to offices. Every time a basket of their fruit is consumed by their customers, they are giving back by planting fruit trees in Malawi. With one fruit tree planted for each fruit basket consumed. When it comes to fruit trees, they opt for papaya or guava trees alongside planting quick growing trees such as Senna Siamea in order to provide firewood for the local people.

One way smaller companies can become active in this sphere is by collaborating with established charities when trying to be corporately responsible, this is what Fruitful Office has achieved via their collaboration with the UK charity RIPPLE Africa who work on the ground in Malawi. The trees planted on behalf of the company are planted by local people themselves and 35 trees are planted for each 10,000 families. That is a lot of trees – and not only that but farmers, community clubs and schools are also growing between 1000 and 5000 tree seedlings each – training and equipment is given to those so they can learn how to plant them properly and they are monitored throughout the year to ensure as many as possible are ready for when the rainy season hits.

Why is planting trees so important in Malawi though? It is providing sources of food for consumption and income generation but it is also important as deforestation is a major issue in Malawi. Plenty of African communities believe that setting fire to forests will improve agriculture so they constantly cut trees down and set them on fire. This is not the case, however, with only the top soil actually being fertile, a top soil that is thus washed away when the trees themselves are cut down. It is important to educate Malawians and fellow Africans on how to grow new trees and care for them, show how valuable they are to them not only as an income source but a food source too and prove to them that deforestation is not the way.

More businesses are starting to see just how important corporate responsibility is and are launching campaigns across the world. Fruitful Office’s successful campaign which had seen millions of trees planted during a campaign that has stretched over more than ten years and showing no signs of slowing down.

There are so many benefits to being corporately responsible as a business and it is mostly assumed that as a business grows, it should give back something to the local and wider communities. Most large scale companies operate some form of corporate responsibility campaign whether it’s taking place domestically as a staff volunteer programme or internationally, tackling major issues in the Third World. Such schemes are a win-win, the community gets help and the business builds larger brand awareness, a higher level of trust and engagement from customers and the knowledge that they are making a contribution to the world, no matter how big or small. Corporate responsibility is also a major issue when it comes to investment. Many ethically minded investors now want to see evidence of companies to having an established avenue of corporate responsibility

So if you’re part of a company or even a small start-up who are considering launching a scheme, take heart that it will be easier to start than you think, with greater benefits than you think too.