Standing Up for the Little Guy in CSR

Guest Blog – John Pilmer of PilmerPR

Service in the community used to be a great way for small business owners to stand out. Sponsor a little league team, get employees out cleaning up a public park, or donate money to a local charity, and suddenly you’ve got great visibility right where you need it. As cause marketing takes off as a successful business model, it’s great for the Earth at large, but it increases pressure on small businesses to do more.

The benefit corporation designation has been a valuable tool in advancing the visibility of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for large businesses since 2010. But most small businesses are LLCs, not corporations. In an economic climate where 66% of customers say they would switch brands if they found a more conscientious company to buy from, small businesses desperately need the same access to public designations and marketing tools to showcase the good they are doing in their communities.

In my home state of Utah, I got involved in the push to adopt the Benefit LLC designation in part to help level the playing field. As I testified in front of the Utah State Business and Labor Interim Committee about the merits of the benefit designation, I had one committee member ask me why LLCs need the same designation as corporations, when LLCs do not typically have extensive shareholders. There are many reasons the benefit designation works as an advantage to LLCs (focusing the company mission, promoting good corporate citizenship, allowing for more private innovation) – but among these, giving small and midsized LLCs the opportunity to compete in the cause-driven marketplace makes an enormous difference to those business owners.

As we drive the changes we want to see in the business world, we need to remember the little guy. Small business owners are a huge strength to our economy, and they can be a powerful force for innovative solutions to the environmental and economic challenges our world faces today. We have to keep this sector at the forefront of policy so they can continue to be a strong foundation for all of our CSR efforts.