Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a significant factor in customer relations, representing an excellent opportunity for small business to significantly engage public support. Redefining success in business, corporations creating value for society often benefit in ways that go well beyond the scope of tangible assets and annual profit.
According to the 2013 Social Impact Study, 91% of Americans prefer to support products and services from businesses supporting worthy causes. In the same study, it is shown that personalized company toll-free numbers from ringboost.com have higher call volumes than generic numbers. More than nine out of every ten Americans prefer doing business with companies supporting environmental or social issues in some recognizable way.This movement of people becoming more aware of their choices and the power it carries is being made into a short inspirational video made by a video production agency in Austin. In 2010, the big benefit of adopting a valid CSR program is clear, especially for a small business hoping to carve a recognizable niche in a crowded market.
Establishing a Valid CSR Program
“One day all companies will compete to be ‘Best for the World’.” This is the stated vision of B Lab, a nonprofit organization serving the growing global movement of People Using Business as a Force for Good. Helping to drive a systemic change in the ways corporations do business, B Lab is working for a shared and sustainable prosperity for society. Through several popular initiatives, B Lab is building a community of Certified B Corporations, helping to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between businesses with good CSR, and good marketing.
Meeting the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, Certified B Corporations legally expand their CSR initiatives to include consideration of stakeholder interests. As leaders of the popular People Using Business as a Force for Good movement, businesses that become Certified B Corporations are building a powerful collective voice through the unifying B Corp brand.
As covered in Inc. Magazine, B Corp certification is the highest standard for socially responsible business. Rising to the challenge of redefining success in business through verifiable CSR, there are now over 1,200 Certified B Corporations from over 120 industries and nearly 50 countries. Recognizing companies with CSR programs that voluntarily meet standards of transparency, accountability, and social impact, B Corp certified firms quickly rise to public prominence. Among the instantly recognizable B Corp leaders are Warby Parker, Etsy, Ben & Jerrys, and Patagonia.
Case Study: Bohlsen Group
Celebrating its fifth anniversary in business, Bohlsen Group recently became the first company incorporated in Indiana to achieve B Corp certification. Bohlsen Group is a full-service advertising agency and public relations firm, supporting nonprofits, corporations, authors, lifestyle, entertainment and event planners. Based in Indianapolis, Bohlsen Group offers public and media relations, advertising, website and graphic design, photography, video production, and social media strategy.
Encouraging corporate citizenship for its staff through paid volunteering hours, Bohlsen Group also offers ongoing professional development, and incentives for health and wellness initiatives, such as walking meetings and biking to work. Other generous CSR initiatives of the Bohlsen Group include investing substantial pro bono work for local and national nonprofits, for example providing free professional development training, and donated or discounted public relations campaigns.
Guiding Bohlsen Group through the certification process was Pedrotti Hays, Inc., a local consulting firm specializing in B Corp certification. Owner and President Kathy Pedrotti Hays applauded Bohlsen Group and noted, “As consumers look to corporations to take the lead in making our communities better, our hope is that many other Indiana companies will follow Bohlsen Group in voluntarily following a standard of transparent, accountable business.”
Vicki Bohlsen, president and founder of Bohlsen Group said, “The B Corp ethos matches the heart of our corporate culture and has challenged us to become a better company.” She added, “Through these efforts, we hope to empower our employees as corporate citizens and to make an impact in the lives of our clients and their target audiences.”
Developing CSR Success at the B Lab
To become B Corp Certified, companies must undergo and pass an assessment by B Lab that evaluates their mission, employment practices, governance structure, social impact, and environmental stewardship. B Lab promotes methodologies and campaigns to support development of CSR success at companies seeking B Corp certification through a variety of interrelated initiatives:
● Facilitating community building efforts among Certified B Corporations, and widely promoting these businesses and their CSR successes to the public at large.
● Promoting benefit corporations through usage of Mission Aligned corporate structures to increase efficacy of CSR through social entrepreneurship and impact investing. In Washington, DC, and the 27 states that have passed benefit corporation laws, more than 2,000 benefit corporations have been registered.
● Promoting Measure What Matters campaigns to increase use of free, powerful tools offered by B Lab for businesses to measure, compare, and improve their CSR program performance. Over 20,000 businesses are using B Lab’s free B Impact Assessment tool.
● Developing B Analytics, a customizable platform to help investors and institutions measure, benchmark, and report on the impact of the businesses with whom they work and in whom they invest.
Hiring Happy Customers
Research on successful CSR also shows that employees of companies offering corporate citizenship opportunities are significantly more engaged workers. This is another big benefit for small businesses, for both employers and employees. With 91% of the labor pool interested in businesses, products, and services supporting the greater good of society, it’s an awesome advantage to hire happy customers as happy employees.
With great CSR, even the smallest business stands taller than its physical presence on the street.
Picture credit: Bohlsen Group