When Christine Petersen set up her small business six years ago, she made a commitment to pursue best corporate practices, including corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This has since resulted in a diverse workforce, a healthy work-life balance for employees and, where possible, contribution of time and money to non-governmental organisations, such as Community Business. 'Being CSR-friendly heightens the attractiveness of an SME [(small and medium-sized enterprise] and can be an advantage particularly as SMEs aren't able to pay as much salary as the larger companies,' said Ms Petersen, managing director of Time Technology. Among SMEs, however, Time Technology appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Of the 43 companies Community Business works with to support and promote best CSR practices, only 10 per cent of businesses fall into the SME category. Shalini Mahtani, founder and chief executive of Community Business, said: 'Across the board, there has been greater interest in CSR but for most companies in Hong Kong it is still not integrated into business yet and is still not on the CEO agenda.' One reason why companies, especially sizeable SMEs, have been slow to adopt CSR practices is because they are viewed as costly. 'Most companies don't see this as good practice. They see it as something they do after making their money. For smaller companies, there is the misperception that CSR is expensive and therefore only large companies can afford to do it,' Ms Mahtani said. The greatest challenge was in businesses altering their mindset over the cost issue, she said, noting examples of inexpensive initiatives, such as an environmentally friendly policy to turn off lights at the end of each work day, flexible working hours, a recycling programme and extending maternity and paternity leave. 'Some of these CSR initiatives can be implemented more easily by smaller companies than larger corporations because they have much more flexibility in adapting to the environment,' she said. Jeremy Woolf, managing consultant at Text100, a public relations firm specialising in the technology sector, agrees. Working with a team of eight, he has implemented a range of initiatives designed to give his staff the best work-life balance possible. The firm offers flexible hours, time off in lieu, summer time leave, which allows staff to take two Friday afternoons off over the summer, and duvet days where employees can each take two days off a year with no prior booking required. The firm also lends its PR expertise to non-profit organisations. 'Businesses can contribute in all sorts of ways no matter how small the size of your company,' he said. 'You don't have to be a big company to supply manpower or ideas and it doesn't necessarily have to be a huge financial burden or time commitment.' While his company's work-life balance strategies have inevitably contributed to its low turnover - just one employee resigned last year in contrast to the industry average of 35 to 40 per cent - Mr Woolf said companies should first and foremost be motivated by corporate social responsibility's impact on the community. 'Don't do CSR to raise your brand profile or to keep up with the trend,' he said. 'Only do it because it is the right thing to do and because you want to engage society and contribute to the community.' With the internationalisation of business changing even the way smaller firms worked, Ms Mahtani expected more SMEs - particularly those that worked internationally with global multinationals - to, in the long term, be more ready to embrace CSR.