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Why has corporate social responsibility become so important for smaller businesses and what examples are there of SMEs doing it well?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has long been seen as an unmissable PR opportunity for global brands with money to spare. However, over the last few years, all that has changed. Rather than simply being an afterthought for multimillion and billion-pound businesses – many of which are not the most virtuous at the best of times – social, environmental and community causes are now being put at the very heart of what makes many smaller businesses tick.

Why is CSR important for small businesses?

It’s now widely recognised that businesses leave their footprint on the environment and the communities they serve. Customers are recognising this too. Although SMEs are often not subject to the same sort of regulatory scrutiny as larger companies, that doesn’t mean they can afford to ignore CSR. These days, potential customers, employees and partners all play a great deal of attention to a company’s ethical credentials, which has made CSR central to many small businesses’ plans.

Small business CSR in practice

One small business that has been taking its corporate social responsibility very seriously over the last few years is Fruitful Office. Although it’s a relatively small business, with 200 staff across five operational hubs, it has put CSR at the heart of its business for the last 10 years and made a big difference to the environment and its stakeholders.

  • The sustainable use of materials and processes

Throughout its 10 years in existence, Fruitful Office has acted on its desire to go beyond profit. That has manifested in its use of environmentally friendly processes and materials wherever possible. For example, 99% of the material used to make the wicker baskets the company’s fruit is delivered in is either biodegradable or recyclable to reduce packaging waste.

The transparent packaging used to protect the fruit is also biodegradable. All cardboard and plastic waste is recycled rather than being taken to landfill and all ‘paperwork’ is sent to clients electronically.

  • Partnerships with local suppliers and charities

Fruitful Office is committed to supporting local producers in each of its regional hubs rather than sourcing its fruit from a central wholesaler. Currently, two-thirds of the fruit supplied comes from local producers. As well as supporting the local economy, that also reduces the distances the fruit has to travel and minimises fuel emissions.

Every week, the excess fruit is repackaged by the Fruitful Office team and delivered for free to charitable projects, less privileged primary schools and nurseries and zoos. The company has also been working with the Fare Share Charity, which helps to turn excess fruit into free meals for the homeless.

  • The desire to make a difference

A well as supporting domestic charities and projects, Fruitful Office has also committed to a mass tree replanting initiative. For every basket of fruit it supplies to a workplace, it plants a fruit tree in the East African country of Malawi. That has created jobs for local communities and is helping in the fight against climate change and deforestation.

Do you know any small businesses in your area that deserve to be recognised for their CSR efforts? Please share your favourites in the comments below.

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Fifi Goldberg

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