How to be a socially responsible start-up

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) may sound like a concept that is out of reach for many start-ups.

However with the right know-how and focus, building responsibility and sustainability into your business from the beginning will help your small business go beyond mere compliance with ethical standards and laws to creating additional value for your business, employees, community and the environment. But where do you start?

Firstly, don’t overstretch yourself

You want to care for the environment and support your local community, and corporate social responsibility is a great way to do this – and yes, even businesses that only have a couple of staff can donate their time and efforts – but do not overstretch your resources.

Put guidelines in place

Consider putting guidelines in place to ensure any voluntary or community work you and your team partake in will not have a negative effect on your business. This will provide focus and a streamlined approach to future initiatives, also giving you a proactive stance to potential opportunities.


Speaking to your staff and understanding what motivates them will help you to support them as they engage with the CSR approach of the business. This communication can stretch well beyond the immediate network of people in your small business, however, as you can also involve clients and suppliers to understand what they are doing in terms of CSR, share ideas and even partner with them in CSR initiatives.


Commitment to the community and specific charities or causes can build long-lasting relationships that reap rewards in the future. These will also build greater meaning for your business’ future CSR engagements.

Use your resources

Your small business may still be a start-up, but it got where it is for a reason. Use the resources and skills at your disposal (equipment, space, expertise, etc) but, once again, make sure you do not overstretch yourself.

Business ethics

A simple way to uphold the meaning of corporate social responsibility is by making sure that your business commits to an ethical supply chain, which includes the use of local suppliers and buying fairtrade products where possible.

Let people know

There is nothing wrong with showing people that your business is doing some good for the local community. Let people know about the causes you champion and be proud of the good your business is doing.

Monitor progress

Corporate social responsibility can easily run out of steam if you do not maintain records of CSR activity. Monitoring progress will also give you the chance to identify where changes or opportunities are possible.