If start up, then CSR as business strategy

Guest post by Marianthe Stavridou, cofounder of tradeNOW, responsible for CSR and CC, and Fiori Zafeiropoulou, Lecturer for Social Entrepreneurship at the City Unity – Cardiff University and Researcher at Brunel University

It is in the nature of CSR the prerequisite of evolution and development in line with social and environmental changes. In a very fast changing and globalized world social and environmental sustainable business models should be in the minds of contemporary entrepreneurs.

Generally, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the real pre-eminent forms of enterprises, especially in Europe, where national economies are manly based on SMEs. Nevertheless also in the US start ups seems to prevale always in the first period after every recession. In Switzerland most competitive country in the world according to WEF CSR as a business strategy and vision created some of the most important alternative banks and non for profit corporations after the Great Recession. Today, one of them, a non for profit cooperative is the major employer of the country having many subsidiaries in several sectors of the economy including tourism, food and beverage, super markets, sales, construction, education, banking, research and innovation institutes etc.

Nowadays the impact of financial austerity combined with the increasing technological advancement and the social shift towards a civil society creates the necessity to apply CSR as a main business strategy.

This impact seams to reduce the once vast gap between corporations and SMEs and in return to create eventually a major level of competition across different industries. However, the implementation of such a strategic development is almost unknown among SMUs, start ups or independent ventures. In fact CSR is a corporate volunteer self-regulation of the existing business model to comply with the prevailing legal, ethical and environmental standards.

Problematic seems to be the knowledge of such standards also in larger corporations, a pressure that comes from ecological, social and financial indicators, stock market indexes, investors and civil societies seams to oblige them to adapt in integrating such standards in their strategy and day to day business.

Despite all, start ups and SMUs should develop their own CSR strategy in order to enhance relationships with employees, local communities and business partners and to multiply their possibilities to ensure further financial and social support.

The way to create a social responsible start up depends on the art of the business and the stage of the business development. It is difficult to compare a start up business with a large corporation, however there are some aspects are common:

First of all start ups should make a SWOT analysis and find out their main stakeholders. They will realize that employees are the most important stakeholders a start up has. Value them, engage them and support them is the motto in order to the power of human capital to develop business. After all, the employees that run a start up business model are also consumers and members of the local communities.

It seams to be a fact, that a proactive approach to employees in accordance with international standards can empower them and let them remain more motivated to deliver more to their working place. And motivated team can always accelerate the development of a start up within the local communities. Employees are the basic key element to CSR and the involvement does not need vast financial resources.

The second important aspect to accelerate your business is to build relations with local business vendors, preferably ethical once. As all visionary entrepreneurs you want to create jobs within a unified local community and it is a fact that reciprocal and mutual- beneficiary relationships with like-minded local businesses enables to create resources in order to strengthening financial, social and environmental impact.

As a last key step of a CSR strategy for a start up is the selection of suppliers and vendors. A start up should carefully select them based on common ethical principals rather than on better offers. A strong local community ensures longevity and support and international investors or large corporations are looking for business responsibility rather than single profitability.

Think global act local is the motto of CSR and we believe that ethical development is the future business development. New generations are asking for sustainable development. And start ups are here to show how.