Corporate Responsibility: How to get started

Restaurants with a reputation for being ethical will no doubt attract more custom

With the hospitality industry still reeling from the effects of the recession, concentrating on how responsible your business is may not be at the top of your ‘to do’ list.

But as your employees, suppliers, customers, the local community and the environment are all directly affected by how your business is operated, it’s important to adopt a responsible attitude and find out how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can not only work for those around you, but improve your profits as well.

To embrace CSR is to understand that your restaurant, pub or hotel’s social and environmental impacts should be managed in the same way as your financial performance, although many struggle to justify the business gains from adopting such an approach.

“Businesses sometimes don’t believe it will save them money and that it will be particularly time consuming to get started,” says Paul Elliott, advisor and team leader for Business Link East Midlands. “But it’s key to realise that CSR is not just an ethical and feel good way of operating a business; it actually saves money and adds to profits.”

Cut wastage

He adds: “Cutting down on waste is one aspect because it doesn’t have to go to landfill, but those businesses cutting down on food waste for example are finding they are saving money.”

By carefully managing stock levels, food-led operators can not only reduce wastage and their impact on the environment, but cut expenditure on unneeded ingredients and make extra revenue by using any leftovers in special dishes of the day.

Another example of CSR impacting profits is the careful treatment of your suppliers, especially small ones who rely on your business and appreciate being paid on time. Developing nurtured relationships like this can eventually reflect itself back in cost as suppliers make their gratitude known.

Choose your friends wisely

It is also important to choose your suppliers carefully, as those with a bad reputation for adopting unethical practices may damage your own. More often than not it can be beneficial to select local, ethically-driven suppliers where possible, as this not only helps your local community prosper, but also reduces carbon emissions from deliveries.

As the public become more aware of food miles and traceability, it’s those restaurants that advertise the source of their produce that are seeing an improvement in their reputation.

“If you’re doing something to be proud about, make sure your customers know about it,” says Elliott. “People talk, and in local communities the good or bad reputation of a company can spread very quickly.”

Reputation is everything

The same can be said about the reputation of a business as an employer. Those with a positive standing in the community can expect to attract a higher number of skilled workers than if they were known for treating their staff unfairly.

“Invariably the companies that pay attention to this reach a point where they are seen as a better employer to work for. Because they treat employees respectfully they can build up a degree of staff loyalty, which can then reduce recruitment costs.”

Lend a hand

Some larger operators will make a regular donation to a selected charity each year, which of course bodes well in their customer’s perception of them, but smaller independent businesses may struggle to find the cash.

“Local restaurants and pubs can support charitable events through sponsorship. For instance, sponsoring the kids’ football team in the village is good CSR but it’s also a good marketing tool – the whole local community will see your name on those kids’ shirts every weekend.”

So being responsible doesn’t always require altruism. By investigating the ways you can improve the world around you, in terms of the environment and the people you employ, there will invariably be a way you can reduce costs or boost revenue.

One of the main impacts CSR has on a business is the improvement of its image. And as almost half of British consumers consider a business’s level of CSR before buying a product from them, it’s time to consider how your reputation can boost your bottom line.

Read more articles in this series here.

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