The Selle BusinessĀ Blog

Ā Changing the world through positive impact

from a natural and organic business consultant

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

company culture core values csr purpose Jun 12, 2024
CSR image

Many small and medium businesses shy away from corporate social responsibility (CSR) because they believe it’s for the big corporations to tackle and that their smaller teams lack the capacity to do it well.

To compound matters, learning about CSR can be mis-informing. CSR curricula at Ivy Leagues schools often use case studies that focus on the biggest 20 corporations in the world, such as Unilever, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Uber—leaving students of CSR wondering how sustainability practices actually fit into small and medium sized companies. You may wonder how, if you’re not a mega-million company like Google (which reports its sustainability data here), you can make a difference.

The fact is, you can. Every company including sole proprietors, can make a positive impact through their decisions that are based on positive core values. You need not hire a CSR executive to manage this for you and you need not have 10 departments that need training. Medium-sized companies (such as those with 30 employees and an annual budget of $5 million) can create enormous positive impact through responsible business practices based on corporate social responsibility.

Examples of Companies Doing It Right

Thankfully in today's world, there are companies who are passionate about CSR and work toward a worthy purpose. They invest in doing the right thing for the long-haul and they share about their wins and challenges publicly, which is important. Above all, there are companies embracing the "be a force for good" edict by establishing positive environmental and social values and implementing powerful purposes.

For instance, take Numi, the tea company based in California. You’ve likely seen their boxes of packaged herbal tea on health food store shelves. Their small team of roughly 43 is renowned for implementing purposeful activities that show their concern for water in their vendor’s farming communities. Even though they’re relatively small, the company established partnerships to create a program called Together for H2OPE, providing fresh drinking water to rural communities in India, Madagascar, and South Africa. After all, says their website, what is herbal tea without water? They also partnered with a nonprofit to provide similar benefits in Ukraine. Finally, they are one of the landmark natural product companies producing tea packets in compostable wrappers, and they are verified Fair Labor and Fair Trade, making them a beacon of hope for employment candidates seeking socially and environmentally responsible career options.

Other companies develop innovative ways to be socially responsible, such as Equal Exchange which produces organic coffee, tea, cocoa and chocolate. With a team of 110, this company states that its “mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through our success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.” It doesn’t have to. Other chocolate and coffee companies simply hire vendors to harvest cacao beans, make the chocolate, and sell it without regard to employee values, fair hiring, or the farming implications of unsustainable agricultural practices.

The success of companies like Numi and Equal Exchange show us that it is, indeed, possible to be highly engaged with CSR and have positive environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts. In fact, not only is it possible, but it is desired. 

Corporate Social Responsibility should be a beacon for all companies (natural and organic product makers or otherwise) to tangibly affect the progress of the world’s environmental and socially-forward movements. This idea of tangible is key—it’s not enough to say it or to post it on a website. The actual effects of building drinking water fountains in rural areas or hosting listening sessions for farmers is critical to the notion that businesses can be a force for good.

Consulting for CSR

As a natural and organic business consultant, I specialize in leading in-person retreats, workshops and trainings where executives and/or team members come together to strategically identify and expand core values and purpose. Creating a mission statement is not enough. To keep teams healthy and engaged, your company must invest in the ongoing process of exploring and identifying core values. And to propel your company forward with both employee retention and customer love, you should consider implementing a meaningful purpose throughout. What does this look like? I can help with assessments, trainings, curricula, HR resources, and implementation that strengthen team unity. Contact me at [email protected].

Selle Business Courses