Community engagement is one of the key pillars of corporate social responsibility (CSR), alongside the concern with the workplace, the marketplace and the environment.
Community involvement can take many forms. For example, some businesses choose to:
- support a local charity with financial contributions
- sponsor a local event
- organise clean-up events
- volunteer in local schools or community projects
For most businesses, it makes commercial sense to get involved in community-based CSR related to your product or service. This lets you use your expertise, and show the human face of your business at the same time. For example, some restaurants provide food to local homeless groups, while some builders give free labour and materials to community projects.
Look for opportunities that will mutually benefit you and your community - eg by generating publicity, or improving the neighbourhood around your premises.
Community and employee engagement
Many businesses include their employees in decisions about CSR activities. You can, for example:
- support charities chosen by your staff
- encourage staff to volunteer for community activities
- give staff paid time off for volunteering
- help employees to make tax-free donations to charity through ‘payroll giving’
As well as improving community relations, involving your staff in CSR can help motivate them and encourage their personal and professional development.
Advantages of community involvement for business
Working with your local community can bring a wide range of benefits. For example, for many businesses, local customers are an important source of sales.
Demonstrating commitment to your community can also improve your business reputation and, in turn, make it easier for you to recruit or retain employees.
A good relationship with local authorities can also help. For instance, some local authorities prefer to award contracts to businesses with a record of community involvement.
Business in the Community (BITC) has developed the CommunityMark standard to help businesses get the maximum benefit of community involvement.