Companies are key players in economic and social terms, a role and responsibility of which they are increasingly aware. The selection by consumers of certain products or services and not others, the choice of one company and not another, that workers perform their tasks effectively, that people want to be part of the company, that sustainability is given greater prominence in the company’s actions, not only in the environmental sphere but also in the social and governance aspects, is no longer an objective of large corporations alone. All this makes up Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), an area in which SMEs have much to contribute.
Now more than ever, the COVID-19 health crisis and the resulting economic and social crisis have exposed the fragility of a globalised economy and the need and importance of collective security, the protection of human rights and the environment, and ultimately the preservation of the common good.
However, SMEs still do not have a clear vision of CSR, its content and its true dimension. There is little awareness of the implementation of CSR policies among these companies, while this attitude is justified by the scarcity of resources and the difficulty of accessing instruments created for larger companies. This results in a lack of CSR implementation in SMEs, which are far removed from the practices developed by larger companies. In fact, SMEs consider CSR as an abstract term that they do not integrate into their internal or management policies. Sometimes, even small companies carry out specific actions in the field of CSR, but they are not part of any strategy or are not aware of it.
The Chambers of Commerce believe that CSR should be an opportunity for companies to take advantage of in order to become increasingly competitive, and should not result in the imposition of new obligations and burdens. In short, it is about adding value to the company through an analysis of the social and environmental aspects that affect its activity.
Therefore, in order for SMEs to approach CSR in a decisive manner, it is essential that local, regional and national governments and other organisations provide information, stimulus and awareness-raising, which, through awareness-raising, information and training programmes and actions, help to promote CSR in SMEs. In this sense, the recently launched CSR-READy project is a very important instrument.
CSR-READy aims to encourage SMEs to implement CSR in their operations and strategy. To this end, it aims to provide information on the impact of the implementation of CSR, so that smaller companies can assess their capacity to undertake CSR measures and to train entrepreneurs and trainers (Vocational Training – VET) on CSR.
The Spanish Chamber of Commerce participates in this project by contributing its experience in the field of CSR through various initiatives and related studies. In addition, the Chamber provides knowledge of the Spanish business fabric and know-how to approach companies, as well as the capillarity of its network and its ability to exercise public-private dialogue.
The fundamental task of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the CSR-READY Project is to establish the methodology for the analysis of the impact of Corporate Social Responsibility among SMEs, focusing on questions such as what are the benefits for the activity of SMEs and their environment, what challenges do SMEs that implement CSR face? This analysis exercise is the starting point of the project from which to have a better understanding of the current state of CSR in SMEs (diagnosis), on which to create a tool that facilitates self-diagnosis of CSR in SMEs and promotes the approach of SMEs to CSR.
In short, a project that will contribute to improving awareness of CSR in SMEs, improving its social dimension and allowing opportunities to emerge for the collective benefit.