The economy of South Africa was shaken to it’s deepest roots by the COVID-19 pandemic. The manufacturing, construction, mining, transport, and communication sectors were hit hard. Now, Micro Businesses of various sectors have their hands full while recovering. Understandably, the thought of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may very well be down on the list of priorities. However, Micro Enterprises should be aware of the enormous benefits of Responsible Business Structures. It may be just what is necessary to make a leap of faith that yields significant rewards.
In the course of the pandemic, people around the world had to dive into the deep end of change. While CEOs were tending to the garden, professors were teaching their homebound children the ABCs. The way we defined ourselves changed. But, we strived to adapt. We re-invented ourselves in the midst of uncertainty and distress. We took risks and redirected ourselves. Some decided to follow their purpose over their career. In times of difficulty, many chose to help others. We saw the many benefits of community building.
Corporate Social Responsibility as an Investment
What if Small Enterprises could expand their role into that of community citizens? As stakeholders may see CSR as costly, time-consuming, fruitless, and irrelevant, there may still be some hesitancy. But, there is a buy-in. Business models and CSR practises can work together. Fulfilling businesses’ duties to society, employees, the environment, and the economy in ethical ways is an investment for businesses. This is when CSR becomes Corporate Social Investment by:
- Using responsible business structures to create a positive brand image
- Building positive relationships with customers, clients, and the public
- Maintaining a favourable reputation
- Increase employee engagement
In the process, keeping in mind what’s known as a ‘triple bottom line -profit, people, planet.’ This practice acts as a kind of self-regulatory mechanism to ensure businesses are capable of meeting society’s, the environment’s needs but not over their own financial needs. Interestingly, as awareness of societal and environmental issues arise, there needs to be business that will supply the need for consumers to factor such issues into their buying decisions.
Organisational Structures of Micro Business Sectors in South Africa
|Mining and quarrying||0-10||15 million|
|Electricity, Gas & Water||0-10||10 million|
|Retail, motor trade & repair services||0-10||7,5 million|
|Catering & Accommodation||0-10||5 million|
|Finance & Business Services||0-10||5 million|
|Community, Social & Personal Services||0-10||5 million|
Resolving the misconceptions about CSR
Giving back is a basic principle of CSR and it is fairly simple to implement. For example,
sectors such as agriculture, mining, and manufacturing may do well to choose Responsible Business Structures that is directed toward environmental responsibility. In not biting the hand that feeds you, there is space for reputation and trust building potential between business and the public.
Let’s consider the perceptions about Corporate Social Responsibility:
1. CSR is costly
CSR is also synonymous with corporate social investment. Investing in local communities, the environment, employees and the economy makes sense. Furthermore, tactfully publicising CSR efforts is a smart way to win over the community. This is because it shows that the business cares. These efforts can be as simple as going paperless, showing how the business is reducing its carbon footprint, or helping aspiring entrepreneurs by supporting microlending initiatives like Kiva.
CSR can be used as a marketing tool:
- Using Responsible Business Structures to create a positive brand image
- Building positive relationships with customers and clients
- Elevating the business’s reputation in the eyes of the public
2. Social Responsibility is time-consuming
When Responsible Business Structures are incorporated into a business model, it becomes part of that business. It is managed as all other aspects of the business are. For example, in the sector of mining, contributing even minimally to reducing the negative impact of a mining project is time well spent and can work in-line with the business model.
3. CSR is fruitless
When giving is practised intelligently, it can never be fruitless. Considering the thought of increasing employee engagement by improving labour policies. This is surely beneficial to both business and the employees . Another example could be in the manufacturing sector. Selecting a supply chain that is more sustainable and ethical. This shows that the business cares about the environmental future and that of the community. It humanises the vision and mission of the business.
4. Responsible Business Structures are irrelevant
It is true that Micro Businesses are not legally obliged to implement Responsible Business Structures. It is an ethical appeal However, those that do can have an edge over chain stores and competitive rivals. Creating a connection with the local community through appropriate projects or events may be a good way to promote recognition as a citizen of the community. This has far-reaching benefits for the company.
In this way, involvement in the community helps Micro Businesses grow by elevating their presence and reputation in the community. But also, its implementation appeals to our South Africanness across this rainbow nation. Having CSR as part of Small Enterprises is a call to our humanity; after all, a person is a person through other people – Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.