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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for sized businesses

Over recent months I have been pondering corporate social responsibility. The business case for social responsibility for large businesses appears to have been accepted, although I expect 2009 may test some company’s commitment when faced with immediate threats.

But what about the rest of us?

Here at QADEX we fall into the small & medium sized business category as will the majority of businesses within the food supply chain, although we do think large J.

One of the most welcome presents under our Christmas tree this year was a copy of Sir Richard Branson’s, latest book, Business Stripped Bare, which I enjoyed reading over the festive season. In the chapter about social responsibility he recounted the starfish parable – from Starfish, a charity that focuses on the Aids orphan crisis in South Africa.

A girl walks along the beach, throwing starfish back into the sea, when she meets an old man. The man asks the girl why she is throwing starfish into the ocean. She says: ‘The sun is up and the tide is going out, if I don’t throw them back they will all die.’ The old man says, ‘But there’s a whole beach and it runs on for miles. You can’t possibly make a difference.’ The girl picks up a starfish and throws it back into the sea. ‘It made a difference to that one’

This simple parable crystallised my mind on how and why we all need to embrace social responsibility, whether in our business or in our personal lives.

What is there to lose, in fact if we just decided that for all future decisions we make we add social responsibility to the list of factors we consider such as quality, price, service etc we could end up in a position very quickly where social responsibility becomes hardwired into our thought processes.

I am less sure about “grand gestures”, whilst they may be beneficial in raising the profile of corporate social responsibility and gain media coverage there is a risk that they may result in an undue amount of risk assessment to avoid embarrassment in the event that some part of the supply chain is found to be non-compliant by an ever more zealous media.

This is a subject that I expect I may return to in future blog posts.

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