Promoting responsible Business and Entrepreneurship in Small and Medium Enterprises

BITCI News - Jun 20, 2014

Business in the Community Ireland is the network for responsible businesses. Since 2000, we have been working with the top companies in Ireland on their journey to sustainability and responsibility. In doing so we have developed a unique insight into the landscape of sustainable business practices in Ireland and beyond, we have developed our services to meet the growing needs of business in the last 14 years. Our membership survey in 2013 saw 100% of our members would recommend our service to others. We have also developed unique relationships within Irish life, in particular in our communities, through our social inclusion programmes, linking business to the communities in the charities sector, in education, promoting the positive ways that business can have in our community.

Our long term vision is to make Ireland the most responsible place to do business. To move closer to this goal, we are currently in the process of developing our services to meet the needs of Small and Medium Enterprises.

SMEs are important

Larger firms in Ireland account for the majority of our GDP in Ireland, but SMEs have a huge collective impact. Most of the very large companies in Ireland are exporters rather than retailers – so in terms of where people work, where they shop, where they go for entertainment, and in raw numbers, actual business – smaller firms are dominant in Irish life.  In Ireland SMEs make up 99% of all business in actual numbers!

SMEs are important for economic and social reasons.  SMEs are the providers of a range of essential products and services that we use in our daily lives, from the local hair dresser to the specialist electronics company. SMEs provide high quality and diverse employment opportunities. SMEs play an important role in social cohesion and inclusion and are fuelling the creative and Information Communications and Technology (ICT) sector.

What is an SME?

The European Commission defines an SME by headcount and turnover. The term SME includes microsmall and medium sized enterprises:

  • micro enterprise has a headcount of less than 10, and the annual turnover is no more than €2million.
  • small enterprise can have no more than 50 employees, or no more than a €10million turnover or balance sheet figure.
  • medium enterprise is one with a headcount of between 50 and 250, and has a turnover of less than €50million.Business in the Community Ireland

Why should SMEs be interested in sustainable and responsible business practices?

Sustainable and responsible business practices (and communicating these effectively) can play an important role in the competitiveness of the SME sector on a global scale.

Expectations for Sustainable and responsible business practices come from:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Government bodies (there is a new national action plan on CSR)
  • Local communities
  • Other businesses with which they interact.

If actions are applied effectively SMEs can:

    1. Reduce costs (e.g. through environmental efficiencies)
    2.  Improve competitive advantage
    3. Enhance brand image.

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    We are currently working diligently to investigate supports for SMEs that are effective, useful and practical for SMEs, which delivers business value! If you are an SME, and would like to keep in touch with our progress, sign up to our monthly e-zine CSR News Ireland on our homepage and email Sinéad

Promoting CSR in SMEs accross the Southern Region

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABusiness in the Community Ireland collaborated with the Southern Region Waste Management Office on events across the southern region in June, to promote awareness of Corporate Social Responsibility in SMEs. This project is sponsored by the EPA’s Green Enterprise Programme, and the Department of the Environment and local government. Nick from Antaris Consulting spoke about the benefits of CSR, while BITC highlighted the competitive advantage that can be gaine from communicating good practices to customers.  The events were attended by SMEs, varying from hospitality to the electronics sectors, as well as regional enterprise support agencies and projects.

The event in Cork highlighted that greener business practices can lead to significant financial savings. Margaret Walsh from Atlas Box spoke about the growing demand for greener packaging is coming from their customers. A compelling story about her mission for biodiversity at their site in Carrigtwohill has not only resulted in a beautiful wildflower garden, allotments producing various vegetables – but has had a significant positive impact on employees at every level and has even led to improved stakeholder engagement with customers!

In Kilkenny, an SME called Casey Technologies is very aware that security of supply of energy as well as cost minimisation rank highly among the challenges facing the processing industry. For the last 20 years, they have been working with industry to deliver on these changes and their wealth of experience is helping the food industry excel in energy management and are working closely with Origin Green to improve the supply chain of Ireland’s food.

The Waterford event took place in the Institute of Technology in collaboration with Greening Innovation Future Technologies (GIFT) for SMEs project. A representative from Dunhill EcoPark is also working with the Communities Creating Jobs project based in DCU.

All of the events saw lots of lively discussions about what CSR is, and what it means to SMEs. The message from Business in the Community was that many SMEs are already very engaged in their communities and working responsibly. There is huge potential for SMEs to differentiate themselves in today’s marketplace by communicating this to their customers.