6 Dec 2012
By Kelli Korducki
As the new year approaches, it’s as good a time as any to consider how you’ll take your business to the next level in the coming weeks, months, and years—and, especially, a prime opportunity to evaluate ways of upping your corporate social responsibility (CSR) rankings as a small business entrepreneur. Whether yours is a newer startup or a more established company, it’s never too late to reshape the way you do business and run a tighter ship when it comes to social and environmental impacts. But, as with any major strategy implementation, there are key factors to consider.
“With startups, there’s lots of opportunity to invent things like an organization’s mission and core values,” says Timothy Nash, president and founder of Strategic Sustainable Investments in Toronto. “But with companies that are already established, it’s a little bit harder to do that kind of embedding if it isn’t already there.”
For more established businesses, Nash recommends B Corporation (or B Corp) certification for companies who, as he puts it, “are basically looking to get a rubber stamp that says ‘we are a for-benefit corporation.’” Besides getting the certification, which Nash describes as “the gold standard” for businesses looking to adopt more socially and environmentally sustainable practices, the process ensures putting real, measurable procedures into place that can carry into the long-term.
B Corp purports its certification to be “to sustainable business what Fair Trade is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.” To receive certification, companies must meet a performance requirement in addition to a legal assessment. According to B Corp’s website, advantages of certification (in addition to the obvious social responsibility factor) include attracting and engaging talent, attracting investors, partnering with peers and passing legislation.
Still, Nash admits that when it comes to implementing CSR, there are no standard practices across the board. “It’s a little bit like the Wild West,” he says.
One idea to consider is SROI—that’s social return on investment—which some businesses have started to measure. SROI measurement is built on seven principles that include involving stakeholders in the implementation of new systems while considering how they will be affected, transparency, and verification of results.
Another tip is to keep tabs on your company’s environmental footprint. But, Nash says, these metrics should be applied with an individual business’ outputs in mind.
“Everything’s tailored to each unique business,” he explains, “because every business is different and has different impacts on society and on the environment.”
Every sector is different, too. “Someone in manufacturing is going to be very different from someone in IT, and that will be very different from someone at a catering company.”
To address these sector-specific distinctions, one piece of advice Nash has is to identify different leaders within a given sector and look at what they’re doing. “From there, people can emulate what they see,” he says.
Ultimately, Nash’s advice is to consider desired outcomes and then figure out ways of achieving them. “The whole trick is to have that vision, mission, and purpose.”