Posted by

Kay Allen OBE, Director, Trading for Good

17 Sep 2014

If you think of the term CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility, the chances are that you will immediately think big business. You may even think that CSR is an alien concept which is best left in the realm of corporate giants or confined to a business school lecture room. But you would be wrong.

Responsible Business Practice is fundamental to the success of local businesses up and down the country. Every day, thousands of small business owners are doing their bit for their local communities whether through supporting projects, giving up their time for charity or helping young people get on the jobs ladder.

We know that CSR can be an off-putting term, so we call it ‘Trading for Good’. It is not just a ‘nice to do’ add on to your business. The bottom line is that giving back to society makes sound business sense – regardless of whether you run a global conglomerate or a nail salon. Healthy and vibrant communities underpin and grow a strong local economy and that’s good for everyone.

Trading for Good is a digital service that inspires businesses to be more socially responsible, with a passionate belief that successful businesses are responsible businesses. The free-to-use service helps to boost the reputation of small businesses and helps consumers find a business based on its social and environmental credentials.

Trading for Good is chaired and championed by Philip N Green, the Prime Minister’s Government Adviser on Corporate Social Responsibility. It has the backing of No 10 Downing Street.

This service now engages with over 10,000 businesses by encouraging them to promote the good work that they are doing in their local community.  Businesses which sign up are able to list the great work that they are doing.

As well as helping to generate valuable good news stories in your local area, it also helps small businesses to win work. Quite simply, customers or other businesses interesting in buying your services will see that you are a ‘Trading for Good’ member and will be more likely to want to work with you knowing you are fundamentally a ‘good business’.

Over the last few months, we have been directly connecting with hundreds of small businesses across the country.  During a recent roll out of Trading for Good, we held launch events in Salford, Ipswich, London & Newcastle which generated great attendance, creating some excellent press coverage and business networking opportunities.

Our events were well attended by local MPs including Mark Field, Hazel Blears, Ben Gummer & Chi Onwurah and there were over 100,000 opportunities to see the Trading for Good events on social media. But there is so much more we can do.

Our chair Philip N Green has recently written to FTSE 100 companies asking bigger companies to consider the importance of trading for good in their supply chains. For example, Fujitsu is exploring how it can work smarter with small suppliers by helping those suppliers to take on more apprentices by sharing its own scheme. We have been delighted to have received commissions by Fujitsu, Carillion and Ipswich Building Society to deliver reports on the way they Trade for Good which can highlight good practice and learn for the future.

Together we are making a real difference. Businesses on Trading for Good have so far raised nearly half a million for charity and given over 40,000 pro bono hours to good causes. Furthermore, they have created over 180 work opportunities for young people.

We are not talking about imaginary businesses – these are thriving enterprises such as the All in One Company in Newcastle which is designing for Macmillan Cancer Support, Rade Digital in Ipswich which has donated over over £5,200 to charity and JD Partnership in Salford which has helped to plant trees on the local common.

Pressure is increasing from government, the public, the media, regulators and customers for all businesses to behave responsibly. The economic environment has been toughest for a long time and consumers are even harder to reach and engage. Small business is fighting for customers and recognition in the same way as our large high street brands. 

So if you are a small business owner, take a few minutes to think about all the things you are doing for your local community. Then take a few minutes more to sign up to Trading for Good. It costs nothing, but the rewards are endless. It’s time for all small businesses to shout about the good work that they do – loudly.

All views expressed in guest blogs are that of the authors, and not of the British Chambers of Commerce.