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Corporate Social Responsibility is on the Rise. Is it Right for Your Small Business?
by Bridget Weston
June 13, 2024

Everyone has a favorite cause or two. Maybe you and your employees volunteer in your community. But do you want to expand your company’s efforts for your cause?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are increasingly becoming a staple of business transparency efforts.

Outdoor gear retailer Patagonia promotes fair labor practices through its CSR program. Eyewear maker Warby Parker works with nonprofit partners to provide eyecare training and low-cost glasses. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream offsets its manufacturing facility carbon emissions and brings awareness to climate change. Your neighborhood natural-foods cooperative? That’s an example of CSR, too.

But large companies aren’t the only ones with CSR programs; small business owners, such as SCORE client Annemarie du LeBohn, also incorporate social responsibility while running their companies.

Our latest infographic examines the power of CSR programs in building strong businesses with vision.

CSR beyond boosting sales

While just 20 percent of S&P 500 companies published a CSR report in 2011, 81 percent reported doing so in 2015!

Corporate responsibility can do a lot to attract customers. Fifty-five percent of consumers said they are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies.

Meanwhile, a CSR program can help drive employee recruitment. Seventy-nine percent of millennials — the largest generational group in the nation — said they consider corporate responsibility when deciding where to work. And 83 percent of millennials said they would be more loyal to a company with a CSR program, according to a recent employee engagement study by Cone Communications.

How it works

CSR programs can support a variety of causes ranging from education, environmental efforts, economic development, youth services, disaster relief, or arts and culture. Almost two-thirds of mid-sized companies focus their CSR programs within their home state, and most work with between one and five nonprofits to focus their local initiatives. 

This commitment to transparency and responsibility can be structured in several different ways:

Nonprofit — 501(c)3: Approximately 1.4 million nonprofits were registered with the IRS in 2013. In that year, the nonprofit sector contributed an estimated $905 billion to the U.S. economy.

Benefit corporations: Commonly called B Corps, these are for-profit companies that also focus on a particular mission. They publish annual benefit reports, available to the public, that review their social and/or environmental performance. Benefit corporations are taxed as C or S corps.

Cooperatives: These organizations are owned and controlled by individuals or businesses that work toward a common economic or social goal. Making a profit is beneficial, but not the primary goal of the cooperative. Any income that’s distributed to members is tax free. Many cooperatives have a hyper-local focus.

C Corp: Major corporations may have a corporate social responsibility program that drives efforts adjacent to their primary business goal.

Want your small business to shine for a cause you care about? Work with a SCORE mentor to create a CSR program that’s perfect for your company.

About the author
Bridget Weston
Bridget Weston
Bridget Weston is the CEO of the SCORE Association, where she provides executive leadership and works directly and collaboratively with the Board of Directors to establish the vision and direction of SCORE.
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