02 February, Sunday

CSR — A Personalized Business Strategy for SMEs.

Category Social Responsibility
CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is associated primarily with international corporations and philanthropy, but also with actions by which businesses balance scandals or other situations with the potential to harm their image. In Poland, CSR is relatively unknown, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). CSR measures are effective,  going beyond legal requirements but at the same time are in the best interests of the company. For SMEs however often the priority is to show positive business results and remain on the market. Why then should SMEs be interested in implementing CSR strategies?

In the leading economies today there are a growing number of SMEs that implement CSR strategies. In the EU and in Poland the share of SMEs in the GDP and creating jobs is significant. In some countries, implementation of CSR by SMEs is supported at the regional or local level as it is regarded as beneficial to the economy. For example, the Tuscan Regional Government provides grants and reduces taxes when a SME uses consultancy with regard to CSR implementation. In 2011, in Macedonia ten cities held a championship in CSR among SMEs. When one looks at CSR from the perspective of its benefits such as an innovative way of thinking about business, increasing the attractiveness for employees or prospective employees (due to ethical standards) and increasing attractiveness in the international market, as well as better access to capital thanks to transparency and better management, it turns out that CSR is a powerful stimulus for further development of SMEs.

How and when to implement CSR
SMEs are often family or life-style businesses (providing a fixed salary and nothing more) operating with niche strategies. Such companies usually have strong informal links with the local community. Often they have no business strategy, present an informal management style, and decisions are made out of necessity in order to achieve specific operations. So what motivates SMEs to implement CSR if there is no incentive from state institutions? The driver is to develop the company and achieve additional business benefits, both measurable and immeasurable. Sometimes the driver is also the need of the owner / manager to present to its stakeholders values that CSR has, or to meet industry and social expectations and remain in harmony with various stakeholders.

Involvement in the CSR activities reflects the maturity of the company. Sometimes it happens that the company is not aware that their socially-oriented actions can be defined as CSR, alternatively these actions are not visible to the wider public. Any sort of socially or environmentally-oriented actions can be grounds for further developing the company’s CSR strategy. Therefore, it is important to identify the actions and motivations which lie behind them. This information can support formulation of a CSR strategy consistent with the company's values. The most mature stage of the implementation of CSR occurs when CSR serves as a coordinating sets of ethical standards associated with risk assessment and its prevention, supporting formation of long-lasting relationships and trust with external diverse stakeholders.

Due to diversity among SMEs and often the lack of a formal strategy and formalized management, CSR strategy needs to be tailored-made. It needs to corresponds well with the company values ​​and organizational culture, as well as long-term business goals. The CSR strategy should easily fit into the company's daily existence, creating added value for business and society. Sometimes formulating a CSR strategy helps the company to define its strategic objectives, which generates further business growth.

What are the benefits stemming from CSR
The benefits stemming from integrating CSR values into daily operations are many. With CSR a company acquires a new / different perspective on its own business, a broader perspective and openness to new business opportunities. Management takes a more structured form, values ​​become part of business decisions, and the company becomes more attractive to potential employees (a magnet for talent). The company also gains better access to the capital of financial institutions, banks, and investors, thanks to increased transparency. This is particularly important in the case of medium-sized companies that use external capital. CSR is therefore an incentive for further growth, while the company and its employees take pride in CSR.

The practice of CSR strategy implementation in SMEs shows that CSR is nothing more than just daily-to-day operations, rather easy, neither exotic nor costly. Implementing CSR illustrates that the company is aligned with modern trends, showing openness and responsiveness to their stakeholders’ needs. Today stakeholders and the public are demanding greater transparency of companies. CSR is therefore an open dialogue that builds trust and prevents conflict when it comes to making-decisions affecting stakeholders. CSR is a company's commitment to innovative processes and to improvement with regard to its own innovation. And contrary to common belief, CSR strategy is not a barrier in the management of the company. SMEs, which have already implemented CSR into their DNA, have higher chances for stable sustainable development and well-built trust. CSR is a global dynamic trend signifying modernity and defining business standards for the years to come.

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