Corporate Social Responsibility of SME's must be political priority
Accounting for 90% of Europe's businesses, SME's can play a fundamental role in promoting the uptake of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), according to the European Parliament.
In a report by Parliament Committee's, SMEs should collaborate to tackle shared social and environmental problems, which will reduce the cost of CSR related activities and bring improvements that would be difficult to achieve for a single business.
However, although SMEs can play a key part in the CSR debate they are not familiar with the concept, explains Parliament.
"Many see [CSR] as being 'intangible' and with which they find it difficult to identify unless they have first developed a genuine social awareness" states the report.
A further problem is that people tend to think of the costs, rather than the potential economic benefits of CSR.
Because CSR requires an economic investment that does not immediately produce tangible results, it is viewed as an additional burden on businesses whose resources are already limited.
The report goes on to say that one of the reasons for this is that many SMEs are not aware of the positive impact that CSR could have on their economic performance and have not been informed of the good practices.
It adds that Parliament should make the involvement in CSR of SME's a political priority for the coming years.
"Firstly, it is essential to make sure that any and all measures taken in this area, whether voluntary or compulsory, do not result in additional administrative or financial constraints for SMEs and are in keeping with the 'think small first' principle," the report states.
"In particular, by providing support for the activities of intermediary organisations, so as to foster the dissemination of information and best practice," it adds.
The report also calls for the Commission to support action taken by national governments by stepping up its coordination activities, systematically collecting information on CSR policies implemented by SMEs.