In an ever-changing world, re-thinking traditional concepts and frameworks is becoming a must, especially for the world of business where profit has always been the ultimate goal to attain.
The economic aspect, although crucial, has lost its monopole making room for other pillars that a business should take into consideration in order to survive in a highly competitive market, where corporate reputation can build and ruin a business in a blink of an eye.
Therefore, companies are no longer perceived as isolated entities detached from their environment and communities. The other part of the world; the social and the environment that has been forgotten by the business for decades, is making its mark as a pressure tool demanding recognition and acknowledgement. Nowadays, with the rapid evolution of social media, the balance of power has been completely transformed, giving stakeholders the right to put companies under the microscope analyzing their promises, behaviors and therefore demanding answers. This reality has positioned transparency as the base of corporate communication, which made it no longer an asset that enterprises can proudly portray as a competitive advantage.
However, the way companies choose to communicate, and engage with their stakeholders can become a distinctive approach with the capacity to forge a unique corporate identity. Hence, corporate responsibility is becoming a duty and a fact rather than a choice, putting the company´s reputation at stake, and its maintenance an ever-growing challenge.
CSR, Exclusively for Big Companies?
The emergence of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is a living proof that when it comes to corporate responsibility, size does not matter.
Therefore, all the misconceptions that link corporate social responsibility with the company´s size and budget, are becoming ideas from the past. However, in SMEs, savings in the budget are often achieved through innovation, a high level of creativity and eco-efficient measures.
SMEs have been created as a response to a specific demand in society, justifying their size, structure and business focused on niche markets.
Stressing on the important fact that CSR is not a simple add-on to the company´s performance, SMEs are being created with responsibility at the heart of their mission, vision and purpose. They are being portrayed as role models due to their contribution to sustainable development and the contagious effect it is generating, by transcending the limits of the communities where they operate.
Change Starts At Home
It is a well-known fact that change makers should start by looking at themselves in the mirror first, before changing the world. And that is exactly the strategy that is being adopted by SMEs.
Before engaging the external stakeholders, it is essential to start with the heartbeat of the enterprise itself; Its people.
The employees are the doers, responsible to transform the owner´s words, promises and values into concrete behaviors, reflecting the cultural essence of the enterprise.
Therefore, internal engagement and motivation of the employees are key success factors. When the inside of the organization is healthy, it reflects on the outside, and translates the purpose of the business in the most honest way possible, straight to the heart of its stakeholders. The staff being the mirror of any enterprise, their efficiency and passion feed on the inputs they receive from the top management. A management that believes and applies the values they preach across the company.
In a world where focus is being set on increasing the market share, all businesses are looking in the same basket, whereas multiple sources of inspiration and innovation can be extracted, just by looking at their own businesses, and the potential it can bring to sustainable change within their communities.
Walking the Talk…
Coherence will start rising as soon as the actions of the companies start matching their promises. Nothing can hurt the credibility of a business more than, empty words spoken at the heat of the moment, to fulfill a certain interest, and later on forgotten. People do not forget what has been promised to them especially when their health and safety are at stake. Therefore, by not walking the talk, the business is transforming its potential followers into a potential threat.
“Doing good” Comes In a New Package
Innovation is leading the way, and presenting new alternatives even in times of crisis. Innovative solutions that are focused on the core excellence of the SME seek to achieve positive change by getting an increasing number of other enterprises on board for a collective and more influential impact.
“Doing good” does not contradict the purpose of a business it rather complements it, by giving it an added value. From the suppliers to the customers, SMEs are becoming more conscious about their position and the nature of the relation they are trying to build with every stakeholder.
And, by setting their own rhythm and trend, SMEs are forging the path of shared values, by getting all their stakeholders on the same boat and making them feel part of the company.
The traditional top-down communication trapped in a hierarchic corporate context is being transformed into a lateral communication, where the messages are being spread across the enterprise. By transforming the concept of decision-making, from management-oriented to collective input and feedback, the business is becoming more appealing and as a result, a closer bond is being created towards the stakeholders; a trusting relationship that is humanizing the business.
Nowadays, corporate isolation offers nothing but rejection, whereas, interaction with other entities is a guarantee for survival, acceptance and trust.
Therefore, personal values coexist with the company´s values as well as the values shared by society as a whole. Allowing all stakeholders´ demands to be heard and met, is a key to enhance the love brand zone that every company is aiming to install towards their clientele, trying to transform them into evangelists. In other words, the goal is to create loyalty towards the brand, through emotional engagement.
Values define identities, and corporate identity is clearly a competitive advantage, since it sets the company apart from its tribe. According to Roy Disney: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are”.
*Rima El Khoury comes from a background in Political Science and International Relations. She holds a Masters Degree in Sustainable Development and Corporate Responsibility from EOI (Escuela de Organizacion Industrial) in Madrid.
Source: Responsible Business Magazine