Advice & Guides

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Building a social enterprise is a great goal for any entrepreneur, but it can be difficult to get the balance between ethics and profits, especially when you are getting started.

There are some simple changes you can make to ensure that your company is socially responsible however, without impacting your bottom line too much.

1. Ensure staff are paid a ‘living’ wage. Properly paid employment is one of the most impactful ways to make a difference, because their wages directly affect their quality of life            

2. Look carefully at your procurement supply chain. Do your suppliers subscribe to your values? Are they socially responsible? Where possible consider sustainable, fair-trade and local goods.

3. Consider recruiting staff from or offering internships and work placements to disadvantaged groups.

4. Share your business skills with your local community - charities, schools and colleges, small business workshops, etc. Think business mentoring, IT or interview skills or even adult reading. Share your meeting rooms, and make yourself available to the local business community.

5. Implement a Workplace Giving scheme to allow every member of staff to give to give tax-efficiently to the charity of their choice direct from their pay. Charities are losing out on £750m each year because their donations are not tax-efficient

6. Audit your impact on the environment. Look at energy reduction, carbon off-setting schemes, consider car-pool schemes for employees, and how any waste or by-products of your business can be re-used or recycled.

7. Look at ways that you can engage with your customers to increase your influence on charitable giving e.g. a Pennies scheme, a trade-in offer with items going to charity.

8. Have a strong social ethos at the heart of the business. Have a process for the treatment of staff, customers and suppliers and communicate it well.

9. Donate or offer your products, goods or services to a relevant local cause or charity, either on a one-off or ongoing basis. It’s a good way to get brand exposure too.

10. Nominate a charity, and change it as often as you see fit - involve all staff in fundraising and charity activities, and encourage them to nominate charities they would like the business to help.

Peter O’Hara is MD of Workplace Giving UK and runs the Geared for Giving campaign

Next: Drugs in the workplace: a £4bn problem that employers ignore

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