SMEs and CSR - the Dragon is coming - Business Works
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SMEs and CSR - the Dragon is coming

8build team at the Dragon Awards with Kelly Hudson and Keshal Patel The UK’s longest running awards - the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards - spearheaded by the City of London Corporation, have been recognising excellence in CSR in the UK for 25 years.

According to the Corporation, SMEs, who represent 99.8% of all London’s private sector businesses, make up only 20% of award applicants, which come from all areas in Greater London. This year, the City is striving to double the number of SMEs applying for Dragon Awards. It’s hoped that more SME winners will inspire other smaller businesses to take part in CSR activities and redress the deficit in charity resources felt post-recession.

"In general, SMEs are hugely over-performing - last year 17% of SME applicants took home a Dragon, this is fantastic, especially when you consider that only 9% of large businesses won," said Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation Roger Gifford. "With over 800,000 SMEs in London, it’s easy to see the effect that more SME CSR activities could have on community groups."

Last year, those who have claimed awards contributed to 163,565 volunteering hours, equating to a monetary value of £3,822,862 in community projects. Research collated by the City of London Corporation for its 25th anniversary year also reveals a dramatic shift in the type of volunteering that businesses are now completing - trends that seem to fit the dynamic approach of the SME sector.

CSR - focusing on training for employment

Over the past decade, businesses have moved away from a tick-box model of donating cash sums and are increasingly focusing on training for employment. In 2001, the percentage of Dragon Awards applicants prioritising training for employment stood at 20%, more than doubling to 45% in 2012.

Ethical construction company 8build, recipient of last year’s Lord Mayor’s 25th anniversary award, is representative of the more hands-on, vocational and skills-building approach now taken to corporate volunteering. The organisation’s Giving Back scheme, provides training and careers workshops for young people. In 2001 only 7% of applications were from the construction and property sector, increasing to 24% in 2012, meaning that the property and construction sector is the most heavily represented in applications.

Body and Soul

Steve Oakford, Director at 8build said, "In our opinion, the fact that we’re an SME has made it easier for us to set up CSR schemes. The work we do with young people sometimes means that you have to be flexible and creative and ask your staff to maybe take on responsibilities out of their remit to make something a success. We do this in an SME environment every day - we’re all multi-taskers and multi-skilled, it’s helped us enormously."

Other successful SMEs that took back awards last year include Red Door Communications for their work with HIV charity Body and Soul and Sapphire Systems for their work in reading, mentoring and apprenticeships in schools.

the real business benefits: staff retention and a more motivated workforce

The Lord Mayor concluded, "The work that SMEs complete is arguably more worthwhile - with smaller teams and a more personal approach – the staff becomes more invested in the community involvement process, seeing the results on the ground. This is a great reason to get involved – but the real business benefits - staff retention, a more motivated workforce, better procurement options - should be just as strong a motivator."

Applications now open ...

Applications for the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards can be submitted online for all the award categories at The closing date is 28 May 2013 and winners will be announced at the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards gala ceremony at Mansion House in the City of London on 2 October 2013.

The Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards were established by the then Lord Mayor Sir David Rowe-Ham in 1987 and are named after the guardians of the City of London, seen at the entrances to the Square Mile financial district.

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