Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

  • Small businesses can immensely benefit from incorporating CSR as a part of their overall business strategy.
  • CSR activities can give a powerful message to your employees and in turn get a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project from them
  • While it might not always be possible for SME’s to donate cash for such initiatives, many companies are deploying winning strategies to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisations.
  • Engaging your suppliers can also amplify the impact of your CSR initiatives, while helping strengthen your relationships with them.

Should an SME owner embrace the concept and opportunity of getting involved and supporting Corporate Social Responsibility projects?

Some of you may have followed the news when it was announced last year that the US government was on the verge of defaulting on their debt. For average people around the world, this was one of the most confusing topics in recent times, considering the three tumultuous years of financial storms, earthquakes and tsunamis and let’s not forget, scandals.

What got my attention was that Apple Computer had within its own arsenal, stockpiled more cash in-house than the entire US government. Could it be that Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, once a scrawny geek of a kid who scrapped conventional wisdom to go out and innovate as an SME, to fulfill a dream that everyone should own a computer, could ride in like a white knight and save the whole country? Does charity begin at home?

Innovation and courage make it possible for an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs to support social programmes with millions of dollars each year. But what if you have a small business, and your focus is just on survival? What if you are struggling for loans or investors for your own project, and cannot even conceive the possibility of crossing the threshold of success and being able to give back?

When does it make sense to get involved as a small business and give back to your own cause or community? Well, for my part, and for many of the consultants on my team, we believe in looking for opportunities even before rolling out a start-up and building that into the mix as an integral part of the holistic structure of the entire business strategy.

To understand these reasons, one should reflect on some of the advantages of actually shaping your company culture with this type of commitment.

Powerful message

For a start, think of the message you will be sending out to your employees who will begin to realise that they are part of something more than just a 9.00 am to 5.00 pm job. This will often give them a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project and endeavor that makes them proud to say to total strangers, family and friends, what they do, who they are and why they love what they are doing now.

This, HR managers will tell you, is a powerful factor in human capital retention, and a recruitment magnet is always more powerful, when the team within, are all ‘game on’ and buzzed about the company. Among your clients, there is a percentage who will appreciate that some part of your margins which they contribute to, are recycled in a place that has a ‘feel good’ or worthy cause impression, again amplifying another good reason to do business with your company. This can grow to the next level, namely getting clients involved in social action projects, which are miracles of good CSR work in so many communities.

So, how much do companies need to invest in a CSR project, and how is it possible to do this before making a profit? The answer that I propose is that, although it’s nice to be able to donate cash, often, in the lifecycle of young start-ups, it’s not feasible. Many companies are, however, deploying winning strategies in order to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisation.

In the MENA region there are dozens of such organisations that have created CSR projects that would appreciate the focus and participation of one hour of someone’s time. This could range from having your team agree to spend half a day repainting a home for the elderly within your community, hosting a car wash to donate money to a needy school, creating a used book drive to donate to an orphanage. In fact, subject areas are endless and there is never enough. The unseen advantage in all of this is, there is a magical, intangible and yet amazing feeling of giving back to something or someone.

We, as business people, are able to feel a little taller in the process of this work, and at the same time, we have the advantage of not only putting a smile on the receiver’s face, but also spreading pride and significance amongst our teammates and our network for our participation.

Brand recognition

This is not thankless work either. Many participating SMEs are able to elevate their brand recognition and perception, by associating with causes that speak to their audience. This is a key factor of creating a strategy that works for your company. Find a CSR synergy that fits to the services or products that you deliver to the market. Build this into your overall business plan and connect with people on various levels as a result of your winning strategy. Be warned that there is a fine line between being genuinely involved in a CSR project and exploiting it so that you purely get a part of cash rewards.

It is better when companies form committees where employees and officers are part of the steering process, to make the best case scenario recommendations to the shareholders, about not only installing a CSR department, but guiding it and sustaining it. Another helpful hint if your SME adopts this practice is your key secret agents who can make your efforts even more powerful – your suppliers.

You will be amazed that when your team is committed, and has the ability to share a clear vision about what, why, and who, your suppliers will ask when and how they can help. Therefore, you, as the owner of an SME, are able to light a candle in your own store and by the power of passing the torch, ignite second and third party attention and support all around your organization’s CSR wagon.

And yes, remember, charity begins at your front door.

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review


ISO 26000 as CSR thinking guide to achieve sustainable business

ISO 26000 as CSR thinking guide to achieve sustainable business

  • Social responsibility is an organization’s legal and voluntary duty to consider its social and environmental impact of its decisions and activities.
  • ARAB Business needs social responsibility as way of doing business because the successful businesses of tomorrow will be those that lead and create value both inside and outside the walls of the company.
  • ISO 26000 covering sustainability pillars as thinking guide can help your business to run in an environmentally, economically and socially responsible way.

What is sustainability?

Sustainability means:

 “Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – The classic definition of sustainable development established by the U.N. Brundtland Commission in Our Common Future (1987).

It is means that growth must be both inclusive and environmentally sound to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity for today’s population and to continue to meet the needs of future generations. It is efficient with resources and carefully planned to deliver both immediate and long-term benefits for people, planet, and prosperity.

The three pillars of sustainable:                                               ISO 26000 as CSR 1

  • Development – economic growth
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Social inclusion

Carry across all sectors of development, from cities facing rapid urbanization to agriculture, infrastructure, energy development and use, water availability, and transportation.

Cities are embracing low-carbon growth and public transportation. Farmers are picking up the practices of climate-smart agriculture. Countries are recognizing the value of their natural resources, and industries are realizing how much they can save through energy and supply chain efficiency.

Why ARAB Business needs Transnational toward Social Responsibility?

Social responsibility is an organization’s legal and voluntary duty to consider its social and environmental impact of its decisions and activities. A corporate responsibility strategy outlines the ways that an organization contributes to sustainable development, engages with its stakeholders and behaves ethically.

ARAB Business needs social responsibility as way of doing business because the successful businesses of tomorrow will be those that lead and create value both inside and outside the walls of the company.

How ISO 26000 covering sustainability?

ISO 26000 defines seven principles of social responsibility:ISO 26000 as CSR 2

  1. Accountability: being answerable for decisions and activities and their impacts on society, the economy and the environment.
  2. Transparency: openness about decisions and activities that impact on society and the environment.
  3. Ethical behavior: in accordance with accepted principles of right or good conduct
  4. Respect for stakeholder interest: respect, consider and respond to the interests of its stakeholders
  5. Respect for rule of law: mandatory
  6. Respect for international norms of behavior
  7. Respect for human rights

ISO 26000 covering sustainability pillars as thinking guide helping your business to run in an environmentally, economically and socially responsible way.


  • It helps clarify what social responsibility is,
  • Helps businesses and organizations translate principles into effective actions and shares best practices relating to social responsibility, globally.
  • It is aimed at all types of organizations regardless of their activity, size or location.


ISO 26000 makes recommendations on how to identify significant environmental aspects and minimize the environmental impact of organizations’ activities.

Principles such as the precautionary approach or environmental risk management should be respected and promoted.
Four topical issues are addressed in this core subject:
  1. Prevention of pollution Measures: aimed at preventing pollution and waste to improve environmental performance.
  2. Sustainable resource use: Key areas include energy efficiency, water conservation/access to water and material efficiency.
  3. Climate change mitigation and adaptation: In addition to climate mitigation, organizations need to address adaptation by understanding their vulnerability, identify significant climate risks, and plan and implement adaptation options.
  4. Protection of the environment and restoration of natural habitats: Protecting and restoring habitats and the various functions and services that ecosystems provide.
Sustainable business for organizations means not only providing products and services that satisfy the customer, without jeopardizing the environment, but also operating in a socially responsible manner. Pressure to do so comes from customers, consumers, governments, associations and the public. Far-sighted organizational leaders recognize that lasting success requires credible business practices and the prevention of such activities as fraudulent accounting and labor exploitation.

ISO 26000 contributes to the economic growth of companies  taking a step towards the pursuit of global performance and can increase client satisfaction and trust, and promote harmonization between corporate social responsibility and existing documents, treaties, conventions and other ISO standards.

Why ISO 26000 helpful for business?

The International Standard ISO 26000 help Business to:

  1. Design and build a social responsibility strategy tailored to any fields and size of business
  2. Adapt this strategy to any legal, cultural or political environment
  3. Manage social or environmental issues specific to any fields and size of business
  4. Engage employees, communities and business partners in your strategy
  5. Win greater trust and credibility as a socially responsible organization.

ISO 26000 as CSR 3









The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review