Friday, December 25, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility: Better to Give Than to Receive

In a business world infatuated with inflating the bottom line, it is a comfort to know that many business leaders have not forgotten their own humble beginnings or the needs of those less fortunate than they.

Corporate social responsibility has been gaining momentum across Canada the last few years. Witness the fact that the annual summit conference of the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility attracts an overflow crowd of luminaries from the business world. This year's conference was even graced by the attendance of Prince Charles.

Business leaders have begun to realize that giving back to the communities that helped them grow is an essential part of the business cycle. Whether management supports charitable work by their employees on company time, makes available products at huge discounts for those in need, or provides services free of charge, all contribute to helping the people that helped the businesses.

This is not to say that corporate social actions are totally altruistic. Being socially responsible is a wise investment that is sure to pay high dividends. A public that perceives the human side of a business is far more likely to identify with it rather than with the cold corporate entity that is far removed from society.

Of course, it's not just about management rolling up its sleeves. Many companies encourage their employees to join their social action programs. Quite often, small company programs have a way of mushrooming into larger, community-wide programs. If the spirit is right, most people want to take part.

Businesses do have to take care, though, not to overextend their kindness. There is an inherent danger that could arise from wanting to "overdo it". Remember that you are operating a business for profit. Make sure that your needs are met and then begin disbursing from that point on.

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