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In the last few years, there has been a renewed emphasis on corporate social responsibility. In fact, a new survey conducted by business networking platform UpCity found that more than half of small businesses in the U.S. and Canada have social missions they stand by, and almost 30% say they plan to create one this year.

Though, the concept of CSR is not new. Researchers say it’s been around since the 1950s.

According to Thomas, an industrial manufacturing platform, “While there has been a recent spike in the popularity of CSR, evidence of businesses’ concern for society can be traced back to practices originating from the Industrial Revolution. In the mid-to-late 1800s, there was growing concern about worker well-being and productivity among industrialists.”

Small businesses have especially put emphasis on CSR-related challenges, issues and topics recently.

New Survey Findings

  • 61% of respondents said that social missions were very important to them and their businesses, while 25% said they were somewhat important.

Of the small businesses that said they are implementing CSR missions:

  • 67% practice sustainability.
  • 54% allow customers to donate a portion of their purchases to a charity.
  • 38% of owners and their teams volunteer at charity events multiple times throughout the year.
  • 24% prioritize more recycling.


Companies and organizations will often align their missions to match their business interests, goals and priorities.

NIH’s Children’s Inn

Health research company Vibrent Health, a small business with 150 employees in the U.S., has an in-house CSR team comprised of members of their communications team, HR and corporate executives. “As a company dedicated to improving human health through research, employees are drawn to the company’s purpose, and giving back to the community is a core value,” it said.

According to Vibent, they contribute funds and other resources to support organizations that “makes sense.” A recent example is the National Institutes of Health’s Children’s Inn where children and their families stay who participate in NIH clinical trials. In addition, the company has donated almost a ton of food during a food drive for the Inn, made holiday gift donations to families in need and donated computers to the organization.

The Environment

Also aligning its mission to business interests is the U.S. Energy Development Corporation. Thanks to their in-house CSR efforts on sustainability-related issues, Executive Vice President Matthew Iak said they saved 300,000 barrels of fresh water, reduced fuel usage by 34,736 gallons and lowered carbon emissions by 389 tons.

Increased Transparency

According to UpCity’s survey, 53% of businesses have an in-house social responsibility team to assist with social awareness-related missions and opportunities

U.S. Energy Development Corporation’s Iak said the company created an ESG committee that meets bi-weekly and represented different parts of the organization including engineering, business development, financial and sales and marketing.

“This in-house team has greatly improved the firm’s internal lines of communication, adding employee training events, off-site leadership and charitable events, and company lunch-and-learns. This additional transparency has created a culture in which our employees go above and beyond for our partners and fellow teammates,” he observed.

Passing The Baton

Praduman “PJ” Jain, CEO and founder of Vibrent Health, recalled that their corporate responsibility team was established in 2018. “I realized that I could not manage the role any longer as the company grew [and] passed the baton to the director of communications.

“The HR team is consulted regarding corporate social responsibility activities and plays an active role in outreach to internal audiences, i.e., employees, such as when coordinating food drives during the pandemic.

“I remain involved on the team and regularly contribute ideas for giving. The communications team is responsible for messaging to internal and external audiences, such as using the company newsletter,” Jain said.

Employee-Nominated Charities

Dan Olson, Upcity’s CEO, said his company donates thousands of dollars a year through its Reviews For A Cause campaign. During each campaign, it gives $5 for every review of the service providers that are posted on its website.

“We select two employee-nominated charities each year, and that has given our team not only a sense of ownership in our social responsibility, but connected our audience to us in a more intimate way. For example, our current cause is the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, nominated by our Content Manager Jason Randall, because of his family’s personal experience with CF.”

“We have also heard from customers about their personal experiences with Cystic Fibrosis and it has further solidified relationships through our commitment to giving,” Olson noted.

Advice For Business Leaders

Olson recommended that “Business leaders who don’t currently have a social mission should really consider the added benefits of implementing one beyond social responsibility: a social mission can help brand reputation through PR, and can also improve employee satisfaction and retention.”

About The Survey

UpCity surveyed 600 respondents in the United States and Canada about their takes on small business social awareness policies, practices and benefits in 2022.

Fifty-four percent of the respondents were male and 46% were female. A majority of respondents worked at small businesses with 2-5 employees (21%), followed by 51-100 employees (20%), and 11-25 employees (18%). Twenty-eight percent of the respondents were part of a business that has been operating for 3-5 years and 34% of the businesses earned annual revenue of less than $500,000.

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