The latest issue of Canadian Business Magazine features a report co-authored by American Express entitled “Is Giving Back Worthwhile?”
AMEX polled 500 small Canadian firms to find out whether they invest in socially responsible causes and if it’s worth the effort. At the time of this writing only the hard copy issue is available on newsstands with the on-line version scheduled to be posted to their website on May 1 but here’s the spoiler.
Most businesses just don’t get it…
There are a lot of stats wrapped up in the report that are made to look rosy and show that small business is in tune with the environment and what their communities want. 92% for example “feel a duty to give back to the community.” But buried in all the hippy-dippy happy numbers is a startling truth. In the middle of the graphic, in the small type it says, only 30% consider their companies to be socially responsible.
If 92% think it’s their duty how come only 30% think they are actually doing it? Right below that it says 86% agree the ability to contribute to the community is one of the rewards of business ownership, but again, only 30% think they are taking the right steps to leverage that.
Why the disconnect?
Clearly small business owners want to give back to their communities, don’t they? They see the benefits, and they understand that they exist to serve their customers, right? But they aren’t doing a very good job of it and most of them freely admit it.
At the Meekonomics Project we think the problem is two fold. First off, business owners are capitalists at heart and while they might say one thing when the rubber meets the road, (or their wallet) it’s really hard to make an investment in something that might not bring an immediate return. That’s just business. But the bigger issue is that a lot of business owners just don’t know where to start. So we are developing tools to help businesses get better at engaging with both their customers and their workers in a socially responsible way.
According to the survey 77% of business owners agreed that a good social responsibility plan would help attract and retain like minded employees but only 34% are using it to drive client retention. That makes sense to us; you have to start with the people closest to you, your employees. Once they are engaged they become your greatest assets and ambassadors.
The programs we implement start by looking inward, building a quality organization and retaining the right kind of staff, then we can branch out tell the world. The cynic in us likes that plan too because it’s a whole lot less costly than hiring a marketing firm to tell the world how responsible you are before you’re ready to walk the walk.
Does your firm have a social responsibility plan?
What does it entail?
Want to learn more? Write to; firstname.lastname@example.org