Corporate Social Responsibility and Your Ecommerce Business

07 Aug 2018 7 min read

Running a business in this age of digitization is about so much more than just creating a product or service to sell. We’ve got social media, online platforms and multiple marketplaces to consider and in more recent times, there’s been an increased expectation on businesses to be more accountable for their economic, social and environmental impact on society. You might hear it termed as the triple bottom line.

For a while there, the impact businesses were having on the people and environment around them went unnoticed, or at least unchallenged.

Thankfully though, times are changing and businesses of all sizes are taking notice and taking responsibility.

Large organizations are adopting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, which provide a framework in which they can identify and address issues. And it’s not just customers who are keeping corporates accountable it’s staff too. In fact, employees seek out employers who have a strong CSR focus and it’s known to improve staff retention, motivation and satisfaction.

You might be thinking, “but I’m not a huge corporate with huge budgets and profits to play with”. That’s just it, you don’t have to be.

We spoke to two growing businesses who are taking a stance, making a difference and just happen to be Neto customers. And as Sandy Abram from Wholesome Hub shares:

"Start small. Sometimes the challenge to incorporate CSR in your business can be overwhelming so start with one thing, one area and make a change. Every bit counts and every action goes towards being part of the solution."

Wholesome Hub homepage promoting alternatives to straws which are harmful to the environment

Wholesome Hub is all about helping people live a healthier life in a happier world so you might say that organic, ethical and sustainable values are running through their DNA. They source food, drinks, beauty products and reusables that fit their CSR philosophy, but CSR is not something that’s added on to their business model, it is their business.

Founded by Sandy just 18 months ago, Wholesome Hub has high standards when it comes to selecting their products. They’re not just organic but also free of chemicals, additives, colors and genetic modifications.

“We also use something highly technical called our gut feel – so products that have a great story, products that have been made with love and care, products that look amazing, feel amazing or do amazing things. When I see a great brand, I know it!”

And Sandy’s top tips for getting started with CSR?

"Ask yourself the questions who, what, where and how? Who made this product, what was used to make it, how was it produced, where was it made? These questions will quickly uncover whether a product has been ethically made, whether it’s positive for our health and environment and whether the producers have also been treated fairly."

"And don’t be afraid of the answers. CSR is all about asking the right questions and more importantly not being afraid of what the answers uncover."

Wholesome Hub also works with FareShare a food charity that’s dedicated to reducing food waste and providing meals for the less fortunate. They operate a Corporate Volunteering Program that invites business teams into their kitchens where they prepare hundreds of meals. You’ll find similar programs operating as part of charities throughout Australia, all designed to meet the increasing CSR demand from corporate entities.

Greenfleet is another way Wholesome Hub reduces their environmental footprint. As a member for over 10 years now, Greenfleet plants native trees on behalf of Wholesome Hub to offset the carbon emissions they create from transport and shipping.

We also recently chatted with Heide Hackworth, founder of Earth Greetings about their approach to CSR. Again, this is another business that takes accountability to another level. In fact, Heide started out with a dream:

“…to run a business that was going to have a much more positive impact on the planet than the other companies I had worked for.”

Earth Greetings creates cards and stationery using earth friendly, 100% recycled products. In the initial stages, sourcing paper and printing that fitted the bill proved to be quite difficult and took hours and hours of research. And even now that the business is up and running, Heide regularly checks in with her suppliers to ensure they are still operating sustainably and measure up to Earth Greetings’ environmental policy.

Earth Greetings 100% Recycled Cards

All paper used is 100% post-consumer waste paper and they utilise no plastic packaging whatsoever. They also choose Australian suppliers to ensure that workers are treated fairly and to reduce the greenhouse gas they emit as a result of freighting.

Every year, Earth Greetings subjects itself to a voluntary greenhouse gas audit which measures the materials, waste, travel, freight and energy used and then they offset the emissions by purchasing carbon credits. Not only does it make their business carbon neutral, it incentivises their business to operate sustainably. And the trees that are planted on their behalf are part of biodiversity revegetation projects that mitigate climate change and create homes for wildlife. We’d call that a win all round.

“The reward for our extra efforts has been that it’s actually helped our business to grow. Nowadays, more and more people are seeking out Earth friendly products and looking to reduce waste in their lifestyle.”

Heide has also noticed how happy her staff are about working for a company that reduces waste and gives back to the planet. And this is something that Heide believes is a fantastic opportunity for businesses. By including staff values in a CSR policy it shows that you’re a caring employer and it motivates, engages and empowers your employees. Ask your staff what they would like included, what they will be responsible for implementing and what skills and ideas they can contribute. Earth Greetings employees decide as a team where their charitable donations are to go and they donate 10% of profits to a range of environmental organisations.

Looking for ideas for your business’ CSR strategy? Here’s a few to start with:

  • Involve staff by asking what charitable causes are important to them and what they are prepared to contribute in terms of time, money or resources.
  • Take the lead and ensure your management team are committed and ready to get their hands dirty:
  • Create or participate in a fund raising event
  • Implement a carbon offset program
  • Volunteer your time as a team to a charitable cause
  • Donate a portion of profits
  • Involve customers with options to carbon offset their purchase or buy a product that’s specificallycreated to support a cause
  • Implement an employee volunteering policy where they can work for a charity instead of your business for a day
  • Introduce sustainable workplace practices such as recycling paper and ink cartridges, installing energy efficient lighting and solar power, turning off lighting at night where possible and removing things like capsule coffee machines and other single use items.
  • On a final note, your CSR policy needs to walk the walk because customers and staff will see right through a CSR approach that’s designed purely to build a company’s reputation. A properly implemented strategy benefits your staff, your business and of course the broader community and environment.

    Here at Neto, 23 of our team members including CEO Ryan Murtagh and COO Jason Titman, recently completed the 100km Ride to Fight MS and raised over $26,000 for MS Queensland. We’re proud to be one of the Top 10 Team fundraisers and we couldn’t have done it without amazing corporate partners and awesome staff. Read all aboutour journey.