Businesses in the West Midlands have been warned to prioritise corporate social responsibility in a bid to improve performance and attract and retain talented workers.
The warning was given at the recent Social Footprints Symposium at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham hosted by the Learning and Skills Council.
According to research from the Institute of Business Ethics, companies with an ethics policy are more likely to be commercially successful.
While 90 per cent of FTSE 100 companies have such a policy, many are not taking the issue seriously enough, it is claimed.
Birmingham-based businessman Simon Topman, vice president of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the meeting: "In the rapidly growing field of CSR, many businesses in the region are taking notice of how their activities are affecting employees and the wider community and are recognising the benefits of doing so.
"However, some are in danger of getting left behind and increased competition means that all businesses need to look at how they operate and the difference they make socially and to the environment, in order to develop or strengthen their competitive edge."
Commenting on the importance of CSR, Dave Kennedy, EQUAL programme project co-ordinator for the LSC in the West Midland, said: "For small or medium-sized businesses, it can be hard to find the resources for CSR initiatives"
To help businesses get started, the LSC's EQUAL Adjust the Balance programme provides ten top tips to CSR best practice:
* Empower people - align salaries fairly, provide training and development for workers and your efforts will be rewarded in staff retention rates and recruitment;
* Pay attention to the well-being of those around you - trust can be a commodity that appreciates in value;
* Get to know your suppliers and your customers - you'll recognise your true worth to each other;
* Use consultation to learn and shape strategy, not to avoid making decisions or taking action;
* Business as usual - or is it? Challenge this idea by cultivating a culture of individual responsibility;
* Promote positive actions and initiatives - this will enhance your reputation as a business and encourage other companies to follow suit;
* Buy and use fairly traded products and encourage your clients to do the same;
* Gain advantage without taking advantage by making corporate social responsibility part of your risk assessment;
* Learn how to calculate your company's carbon footprint and help to save energy and money;
* Help the environment by making an effort in the workplace - recycle items such as paper and printer cartridges; switch off power at the end of the day and use low-energy light bulbs; and promote cycling, car-sharing, public transport and walking to work.
EQUAL is funded through the LSC, which tests and promotes new means of challenging all forms of discrimination and inequality in the labour market. The Adjust the Balance project aims to raise awareness of the importance of CSR and work-life balance in small firms.