Janice Charlton looks at the benefits that adopting a policy of corporate social responsibility can have for small businesses.

The term ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) has been bandied around a lot lately, but like anything relatively new it opens up a lot of questions, such as, what exactly is it, should you be doing it, are you already doing it without realising, and what do you need to do?

As the name implies, CSR is an umbrella term for the initiatives a corporation carries out in order to offset its environmental and social effects. Often, large businesses can have dramatic impact on our world in varying ways and at differing levels – through agriculture or chemical manufacture, for example – and CSR became a way of trying to balance out the negative by instilling a degree of positivity.

While CSR was initially adopted by big corporations, lots and lots of smaller businesses are now tapping into this concept as a way of making a difference within
their communities.

Why should you do it?

Outside of the existing laws and regulations you need to be compliant with, there is nothing stating that you need to carry out any form of CSR, so why would you bother?

For starters, it gives an edge that can set you apart from the competition. Seeing a business give something back to its local community resonates really well with people, and this could end up being a real patient booster.

Not only that, incorporating CSR as part of your business ethos can be highly attractive to potential new employees. People want more from their work than just a salary at the end of the month, they actively look for opportunities within businesses that offer a little more. By giving something back you could begin attracting a higher calibre of job applicants when the time arises.

Carrying out voluntary work within your community also extends the places and people with which you are affiliated. By extending your network in this way, you will notice new patients coming to your practice either through new first-hand connections, or word of mouth.

Last, but by no means least, it feels pretty good to be able to give something back to your own community. We’re all guilty of getting caught up in the bubble of work and home life and we often forget to stop to look around us and see the ways in which we could make a positive impact.

Create a plan

If you decide to go ahead and introduce some CSR activity, I highly recommend sitting down and creating a plan. This prevents it from becoming a fad idea or an incomplete job, instead helping you to make it a core part of your business ethos.

Get your team involved in the planning process. This will give you an insight into the charities that are meaningful to your own employees, either local or national, which will encourage participation from the whole team. Choose your causes as a team and then stick to only these ones for the coming year. You can change this annually, but it’s good to have some focus, because it can be easy to get carried away and end up spreading your contributions too thinly.

The next thing to do is decide on your CSR limits, both in terms of the amount of time you can allocate and how much finance you can afford. The latter should take into consideration any contributions, donations, and vouchers/gifts/prizes you might offer, as not planning for these can end up costly later on.

Finally, tell your chosen charities that you plan to support them for the upcoming year, and provide them with a guide of how much time and finance you have allocated to helping them out. This is important to outline from the outset as it avoids them having higher expectations than you can meet, while also allowing them ample opportunity to provide guidance of the ways in which you could help.

Ideas for you

As a dental practice, you are a small business working directly in the heart of your community, which gives you a good grasp of local issues and causes that you could make a difference to. This will vary from one practice to another due to location and patient base, so think about what’s going on right on your doorstep and listen to what your patients and employees are telling you.

Very often, local schools or community centres will be fundraising to pay for improvements or new facilities that would benefit local people, or perhaps your nearby hospice has an upcoming open day that you could give up some time to help out with. Ideas like this will usually resonate with patients as they will often be involved with these causes in some way, whether directly or indirectly.

At Patient Plan Direct, one of our north west client practices utilised their payment membership plan to raise funds for the victims of the Manchester bomb attack. The practice pledged to donate a significant proportion of their monthly payment plan income from all plan patients during the month that followed the attack in Manchester. This demonstration of CSR and charity resonated with the local community at a time that was so important for everyone to pull together and navigate through an upsetting period.

While CSR started out as an initiative for big corporations, it is a great tool for small businesses to use, too. Not only does it make your service a more attractive offering by showing people your caring nature, it can also be a good way of taking time out from the pressures of work. If you choose to incorporate some CSR activity, get your whole team involved and make sure it’s fun!


Patient Plan Direct offers a low cost, simple, flexible and practice-branded solution to running patient payment plans, with a focus on delivering first-class support and expert advice to ensure you reach your plan objectives. For more information, visit www.patientplandirect.co.uk, email [email protected], or call 0844 848 6888.