Spruiking corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials were all the rage not that long ago but prolonged tight financial circumstances and uncertain consumer and market behaviour have seen CSR lose the emphasis it once had.

CSR has come to be associated with the corporate giants of the world drawing big cheques to support worthwhile causes but as the 2016 Queensland Franchise Council of Australia’s (FCA) awards night demonstrated, CSR is not something exclusive to the top end of town.

The International Organization for Standardization’s  Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility, ISO 26000, published in 2010 defines CSR as the responsibility of an organisation for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that:

  1. contributes to sustainable development, including the health and the welfare of society;
  2. takes into account the expectations of stakeholders;
  3. is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour, and
  4. is integrated throughout the organization and practised in its relationships.

The Queensland Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Awards demonstrate that local small business, in this instance in the form of franchises, have a commitment to CSR which, proportionate for their business size, may exceed the often more obvious front page monetary donations made by the big end of town.

This is not to disparage the efforts of the big business/head offices, as all CSR initiatives usually result in benefit for the communities they affect, but it does show that, with encouragement, CSR can operate on a micro level with positive and welcome effects for the local communities which are the recipients of the CSR efforts.

At the 2016 Queensland FCA awards nominees included:

  1. a suburban franchisee couple raising two (2) kids, one disabled, and giving back in a financial capacity to their local charities who had helped them through tough family times as well as others they wished to support;
  2. a single business woman striving in a competitive market place to keep staff and turn around a business which had been underperforming was so concerned and involved with her regular customers when one aged care resident missed his usual contact with the business enquiries were instigated to check on his well being;
  3. a twenty (20) year plus veteran field manager with an automotive background moulded in the true Aussie ‘bloke’ style, who found inspiration in assisting struggling businesses turn performance around and become active local community and franchise network participants; and
  4. a just out of university professional couple, still brimming with the enthusiasm that got them started in their own business, who saw the benefit in paying above award wages to employed staff who were prepared to actively implement their values whilst performing their jobs.

Deserving nominees demonstrated how basic business principles equated neatly with the ideals of being good corporate citizens by:

  1. supporting the local school by permitting car washes, sausage sizzles and cake stalls on business premises, not directly linked to sales but the good will and foot traffic generated builds a business profile increasing the potential of future sales;
  2. caring about their customers and treating them as individuals by asking after them if they missed their usual contact, through the business thus generating great customer satisfaction but also repeat business.
  3. ongoing ‘in kind’ or financial contributions for raffle and lucky door prizes for sporting, charitable or other local organisations.

The decision to participate in CSR is often done without cost benefit analysis on the expenditure and likely return in revenue from such expenditure. Certainly the nominees at the awards seemed to have an ingrained instinct that said to them “I’m part of this community, I’ll support this community as best I can and in turn hope they will support me”.

Each of these individual franchisees had support at the FCA awards night from their respective franchisor who were clearly proud of the involvement and outcomes achieved by their franchisees. That encouragement and acknowledgement that CSR was an important and worthwhile initiative to be activity involved in certainly had a knock on effect to each of the local communities in which the nominees were situated.

The nominees demonstrated an involvement in CSR not because it was required or trendy to do so but because they said that they had a desire to ‘give back’, ‘be involved’ and believed that, irrespective of the recognition through the awards process, actively implementing CSR was what they thought was right for their businesses.

So congratulations to the generous and humble nominees and winner of the Queensland Franchise Council of Australia 2016 CSR Award. They are the type of role models all businesses can take inspiration from.

CSR is alive and well in small business and certainly franchising. Long may it flourish at all levels of business activity!