Do good, do good business

‘Corporate social responsibility’ is a bit of a buzzterm - but what does it actually mean for your business?

We talk to three business owners about how helping your community can contribute to employee retention, improve your client relationships and attract new customers.

A boost to staff morale

Large corporation AHG Vehicle Dealerships has worked with non-profit group White Ribbon since 2009, during which time they created an anti-domestic violence campaign.

Together, the two organisations created an internal ad communications campaign for AHG, featuring photos and quotes from actual AHG employees. The purpose was to elicit staff involvement to raise funds for White Ribbon, and the result - more than $50,000 raised in 2009.

According to owner Chad Davies, his staff have been involved in the campaign from the start and one of the most important benefits of the project for his business was the boost in employee morale and engagement.

“When your staff are happy and involved they’re more productive and they are less likely to move on, so it’s beneficial in terms of productivity and employee retention, which can save a lot of money over time,” he explained.

“Identify ‘champions’ within your business who show interest in the program and have them assist you in the roll out and staff communications (so it doesn’t come from management only).”

Attracting the right customer

Martin O'Sullivan and Belinda Lai are co-owners of Grasshopper Bar in Sydney (pictured), which supports many of the local art galleries and has worked with events such as the Sydney Film Festival. Since Grasshopper opened around a year ago, the City of Sydney Council and local government has provided great support to Grasshopper and in response, O'Sullivan feels it is his business' duty to therefore "give back" to other businesses in the community. Grasshopper has provided food and drink free of charge for galleries such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, 4A Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

O'Sullivan chose to work specifically with organisations where there would be business opportunities for cross-pollination with Grasshopper Bar and where their values were well-aligned.

"It works well for us, because the reason we pick the art galleries is that the people who go to them are the people who we’d like here at Grasshopper. They’re culturally diverse, they’re well-travelled, they’re interested in food, drinks, art, architecture and details," he said.

Building quality relationships

Social entrepreneur and Telstra Business Award winner Melina Schamroth is the owner of small business m.a.d. woman, which runs programs to help businesses of all sizes and non-profits to work together.

She believes that developing socially responsible initiatives within your business can also help strengthen your ties with suppliers and clients.

Schamroth recalls one program she set up with a travel destination company several years ago,where disadvantaged children from around Australia and New Zealand were treated to a holiday. This required the company to call upon its partners to get involved, some of whom provided accommodation and tours.

“Everybody was working for a greater goal. As a result, the travel destination company got some fantastic media coverage, and from that, they actually had people contacting them to work for them.The staff had such an immense sense of pride for what that had taken place, and it created tremendous goodwill within the organisation and externally,” she said.

“It’s a good example of how when people work together, everyone gets long-lasting benefits.”

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