However with SMEs comprising all but ten percent of businesses across the world it is essential that they play a crucial role in driving forward positive changes within the environment and society.
This must be seen as not just a responsibility, but an opportunity. To help drive forward this notion and nurture the emergence of the responsible SME, the Organisation of Responsible Businesses (ORB) have launched the Responsible Business Standard, a CSR accreditation designed specifically for SMEs.
Whilst many smaller businesses do already address issues of social importance, through activities such as supporting charities, using local suppliers, promoting staff development and recycling, ORB identified that there was little formally available for smaller businesses to validate their existing processes.
This lead to the development of the Responsible Business Standard, an accreditation launched in 2011 which is already proving to fulfil a vital need in the market. Validated by Dr Beatriz Acevedo, lecturer in sustainable management at Anglia Ruskin’s Lord Ashcroft International Business School, this national accreditation builds upon years of research from ORB based upon their extensive experience in supporting SMEs in their endeavours for sustainability.
The concept behind the standard is simple; an affordable, auditable and attainable accreditation specifically aimed at SME’s, with entry costs of less than £500. Available at three levels (gold, silver and bronze), the certification provides a progressive structure for excellence and undoubtedly gives accredited businesses a competitive edge.
Whilst it does include good practice in Health and Safety, HR and other legislations, it encourages businesses to go one step further by exceeding regulations. It includes practical changes, such as reducing overheads, to make a more obvious impact on cutting costs, but advocates that the consideration of people and the environment can have a much more significant impact on a business.
From increasing staff engagement and retention to boosting reputation, the benefits are extensive, and this is a key driver in standing out from a crowd. As supply chain demands from larger businesses and public sector organisations increase, it is clear that for any commercial business owner, CSR is increasingly becoming a necessity, not a luxury.
ORB have compiled a national team of qualified auditors to not only accredit forward thinking businesses but also advise in ways to improve existing processes and procedures and help businesses to integrate all areas of the responsible business agenda into their daily business operations.
As a comprehensive certification, the standard covers a broad range of the CSR remit, from quality management systems to environmental compliance, proving to be more holistic than existing accreditations such as ISO and Investors in People. Whilst such accreditations are relevant to specific areas of a business, they can often be expensive, difficult to obtain and largely aimed at bigger organisations with more extensive resources.
As such the Responsible Business Standard serves as a validated stamp of approval, showing that a business is committed to best practice and genuinely embeds their procedures within their business. In turn, this builds confidence internally and externally, allowing businesses to differentiate themselves from others in the marketplace.
In a world driven by accreditation, qualification and professionals standards and with budgets tighter than ever, the Responsible Business Standard is a momentous step towards embracing a profitable and responsible culture across the SME sector.
The accreditation is verified and supported by a number of influential figures in the industry and innovative businesses who have already been awarded the accreditation bear witness to the ways it has become a notable tool for driving proactive marketing and management strategies.
Already standing out from their competition and receiving extensive accolade amongst their peers, such businesses are able to level the playing field and stand proudly amongst bigger competitors boasting similar accreditations, finally allowing them to compete for the national contracts and public sector tenders.
Such success succinctly tackles the cynicism surrounding the positive correlation between social responsibility and increased profit; essentially, it truly is a win-win scenario. With the multi-nationals reaping the rewards from blowing their altruistic trumpet, it is now time to promote the emergence of the socially responsible SME and help them to survive and thrive.