What Does Social Responsibility Mean for You?

In The Small Report 2020, peak b tells us that 87% of businesses think small businesses must play a role in communities. With the pressure mounting for small companies to have a positive social impact in the local area, we have explored the trends for you to consider.

Corporate Social Responsibility is defined by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as ‘being the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (“Triple-Bottom-Line-Approach”)’. Supporting your community doesn’t always mean donating money. A less profitable business may choose to give their products or services, or simply give their time to a cause. Although being socially responsible is never going to be free, it is essential to remember the reason why you chose to recognise and support your community in the first place. Every little helps as the saying goes. Some ways in which you can build a socially responsible business, and some activities that you will carry out without realising social impacts or benefits:

  • Buying local
  • Employing people others wouldn’t
  • Improving the environment
  • Charitable causes
  • Supporting one another (advocacy)

You may want to portray a socially conscious image, change public perception about your brand or simply attract the right people in terms of custom and staff. Whatever your reason for considering or being actively socially responsible, now is as good of a time as any and we want to offer you with advice that may help you along the way.

Creating the Right Culture

In the not so distant past, a company was said to be doing good by going paperless and promoting recycling, something that comes second nature to many of us today. As well as providing a code of ethics for your existing employees, your socially responsible image may appeal to clients who have similar beliefs that your company does, creating a new segment of customers. Or, your ethical way of working will help you to attract candidates already on the same page you are. According to Forbes, ‘32% of people would seriously consider leaving their job if their company gave no/little money to charity’, so when strategising remember that people want to work for companies that care for things other than making a profit.

Do you share crowded market space with your competitors? Maybe it’s difficult to define what your USP is. If a socially responsible plan is something you’ve yet to invest in, then perhaps now is the time. People also want to work with and buy from like-minded people.

Millennials in Mind

At times it pays to be the good guy. There is much research suggesting that millennials are the fastest growing force in the market place, but debates as to how responsive you should be to this generation are rife. What you can take from the research is to realise that social responsibility is key to customer success, especially concerning millennials. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 concludes by explaining how ‘millennials and Gen Zs want all of the talk business gives to purpose to become meaningful action, and for business leaders to serve as agents for positive change’. Something we must realise is millennials, and Gen Zs combined makeup over half of the world’s population and much of its workforce. With this in mind, it could be crucial to listen to what this group have to say, today.

Brand Value

There are several reasons why we tend to gravitate towards certain brands. A brand may have excellent customer feedback scores, it may pronounce the best pricing on the market. Brand value has arguably moved on from something tangible to more of an emotion. Take a look at Lush or The Body Shop, both successful brands with ethical roots in helping the planet become more sustainable while pledging to be forever against animal testing. These brands are offering some of the most sought after skincare products out there, albeit their prices are not the lowest on the market. However, they can arguably credit their successes to story-telling and carefully crafted marketing campaigns. Either way, their message is evident in that they care about ‘doing good’, and there is no denying people love that.

On the contrary, it can be detrimental if a brand portrays false messaging – this is often referred to as greenwashing in this context. Check out the diesel-gate emissions scandal of 2015, causing one of the largest car scandals in history. A German automaker was alleged to have fitted more than half a million vehicles with software that would pass regulatory lab tests despite the vehicle’s emissions being several times the limit. Years on and the aftermath is still playing out, according to the BBC, ‘since the scandal broke, the carmaker has spent more than €30bn (£25bn) in legal costs and fines’. Add the cost to the fact its share price dropped by over 30% in the first week after the news broke, this discovery tarnished a company’s reputation. The question is, will it ever recover? Moral of the story: don’t make false claims, you will deny confidence in your brand, and future successes with CSR initiatives may dwindle.

Choose Your Battles

CSR is traditionally associated with big companies as these tend to attract more media attention. They also have potentially more significant reputations to keep up and protect. However, even large businesses can’t fight every cause. So, our advice whether you class as a small or large business, choose your battles wisely and ensure your objectives are achievable concerning the size of your organisation.

Better yet, let your employees choose or at least have an influence on who you decide to support in your efforts. At Gradient, we opened up the voting for our staff to select our Charity of the Year 2020. We included both local and national organisations to vote for, and the team chose Emmaus Burnley – a local social enterprise in its own right but also a part of a nationwide collection of Emmaus communities situated right throughout the UK.


There is no need to hide behind the fact that endeavours of this kind have the potential to bring good press and more traffic or footfall to your website or business – of course, only if you’re in it for the right reasons. This is your opportunity to tell your story, and we want you to do it well, you must remember that people relate to stories about people. So you can have the impact you wish to, be prepared to showcase your efforts, involve your employees but also encourage others you are working with to do the same. You may even find that by leading the way, others in your community follow. You can use this power to help solve social and environmental problems we all care about.

We’re All in This Together

It really is impossible to predict what will happen tomorrow. In light of recent worldwide events, now is a time to ensure we look out for one another, other businesses, families and anyone vulnerable in the community. Although we don’t know what’s to come in the future, we will be better prepared for whatever we face as a collective group rather than at it alone. Some of the world’s most influential companies such as Google and Microsoft are doing what they can to support communities far and wide, maybe we can take some inspiration from these stories.

In the meantime, we would like to direct you to the latest advice from the National Health Service and wish you all safe and well in the coming months.