Why corporate social responsibility is important even for SMEs

by Armando Bartolome

Posted at May 16 2014 03:50 PM | Updated as of May 17 2014 02:27 AM

Editor's note: The Business Mentor is a weekly business column by Armando "Butz" Bartolome, president of GMB Franchise Developers Inc. and chairman of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc.

MANILA, Philippines - The realization that businesses should have a broader social purpose has driven the increasing popularity of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs in the country.

Just as companies big and small have set up their own CSR programs the very concept of what an effective CSR program has also begun to evolve.

From simple corporate philanthropy, many CSR programs now focus on supporting projects which are both sustainable and contribute to a company’s bottom line.

Simply put from merely giving people fish, the programs now put emphasis on teaching people how to fish.

For me, this change is very welcome as it allows businesses to touch and improve the lives of people in a more concrete and tangible manner. It has also transformed CSR into a very useful branding and publicity tool.

Among the members of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Incorporated (AFFI), there have been several companies who have implemented noteworthy CSR programs.

Being composed mostly of SMEs, most of our members lack the multimillion budgets of most multinationals. These limitations however, hasn't stopped our members from coming up with multi-dimensional programs that can serve as a template for other companies.

Setting up a sustainable and successful CSR is like setting up a new business. Even as a start-up, you can start your own CSR program by leveraging technology such as social media and your innate willingness to help others.

Here are the three steps you need to do to set up your own CSR program.
1) Identify your beneficiary

Just like a business, you will need to identify your target market in this case your beneficiaries in order to give your program a solid identity and focus.

In choosing beneficiaries, it is best if you choose a group that would directly contribute to your business. An excellent example of this is Binalot’s DAHON program which provides assistance to the farmers that supply their banana leaves. By doing so Binalot helps empower and improve the lives of people while at the same time ensuring a stable supply of a crucial raw material.

2) Come up with a unique concept

These days CSR is no longer just about doing good as it has also become a useful tool for branding and publicity that is why you would need to find something unique to help differentiate your CSR. An example of this is Aquabest whose CSR, the Green Mindset program, began as a tree planting and resource conservation program.

Aquabot is an art installation that serves as an advocacy ambassador for recycling.

They eventually expanded it to cover recycling and lately have been partnering up with artists like musician Paul Zialcita who turns teaches children how to turn old water bottles to musical instruments. They have also launched the Aquabot, a 10 foot tall robot/ art installation that serves as an advocacy ambassador for recycling. When these two new initiatives were launched early this year, they received a lot of attention and favorable reviews.

3) Communicate your CSR

In order to be effective a CSR must be communicated to the company’s shareholders, employees, business partners, and the public in general. In the case of our two sample companies, Aquabest and Binalot, both companies invest in communicating their CSR to the public.

Aquabest has public relations arm that regularly meets and interacts with the media to help gain publicity and attention for its CSR. This maximizes the company’s investment in CSR by strengthening its branding and relationship with its stakeholders. The company is also active in social media to help promote your CSR.

For questions and more information, you may contact Armando "Butz" Bartolome by email: [email protected] His website is www.gmb.com.ph