Nailing your colours to the mast may be a very old phrase and, indeed, one that many people may not be familiar with, but it is certainly apt in relation to the request I am about to make. It means:

To defiantly display one’s opinions and beliefs and show your intention to hold on to those beliefs until the end.

The origin of the phrase is in 17th-century nautical battles: colours (flags) were struck (lowered) as a mark of submission. It was also the custom in naval warfare to direct one’s cannon fire at the opponent’s ship’s mast, thus disabling it. If all of a ship’s masts were broken the captain usually had no alternative but to surrender. If the captain decided to fight on this was marked by hoisting the colours on the remnants of the ship’s rigging, that is, by ‘nailing his colours to the mast’.

But what, you might ask, am I asking you to do?

Be part of a movement that drives the SME responsible business agenda by:

Operating ethically and responsibly;

Ensuring you have identified the core values that are at the heart of your operations;

Striving to make a positive impact on the lives of people (your workforce, your local community and society at large);

Working towards reducing your environmental impact;

Nailing those colours to your mast i.e. proudly and enthusiastically conveying that message internally and externally.

Conveying the message

If you are operating ethically and responsibly, are you really conveying that message? Don’t forget, this isn’t about systems and ISO certifications, although they demonstrate you have systems in place which is essential to operating a good business. This is about emphasing your company’s core values.

Are your employees fully engaged with and motivated by the company’s core values?

Do your customers and suppliers know what your core values are?

And similarly, is your local community, which may include potential future employees, aware of your values and ethics and indeed, what your company does to support the local community?

Responsible business word cloudFor a long time, the responsible business agenda has largely focused on the big corporates. But as we all know, SMEs are the engine room of the British economy. We account for 99.9% of all private sector businesses, account for 60% of all private sector employment and 52% of all private sector turnover.

It really is time for smaller companies to stand up and be counted. To talk about their values and encourage more businesses to consider how they operate. To give confidence to the public and provide yet another reason why they should support local and/or the small business economy.

The power of collectively promoting the responsible business message

Of course, you could do this on your own. But please do consider membership of the Organisation for Responsible Businesses as part of that bigger, more universal drive to encourage and promote a better way of doing business.

Being a member of ORB is about being part of a movement, and any movement is stronger when like-minded people and organisations work collectively to drive that message forward.

There are benefits to membership of ORB. But we don’t want people to join just because of the SEO benefits, for example, but because they genuinely want to be part of that movement.

Changes to ORB Membership

We are delighted to announce that we have made several changes to the way we work which will, we are sure, make membership far more attractive and appropriate for the right businesses.

  • Membership rates now start from only £35 per annum, or £10 quarterly. (Naturally, these dramatic rate reductions will apply to existing members as well as new.)
  • We have de-registered for VAT
  • We are using the GoCardless direct debit system as our payment portal rather than WorldPay, which means companies always receive pre-notification before a payment is taken.
  • We have changed the membership process (see below) Taking the online questionnaire is still the first stage, but then a potential new company must Apply for Membership (rather than just making a payment to complete the process.) Naturally, this will entail more administration, but it will provide us with the opportunity to undertake a greater level of due diligence, including a telephone conversation with the appropriate person, before we accept any new members.
  • The company has converted to a CIC, a Community Interest Company limited by shares.
  • The company shares are now owned by BSTLC CIC, a Community Interest Company limited by guarantee.

Please see our separate articles: We’ve slashed our membership rates and ORB is now a CIC?

Are you ready to nail your colours to that mast and become a member of ORB and proudly display this logo? You might also like to quote The Pledge:

ORB member logo“We pledge to operate our business in an honest and ethical manner;

 to consider people and the environment when making business decisions;

and endeavour to make a positive contribution to society at large.”

The membership process

You can start that process HERE. The link will take you to an online questionnaire which will take 10-15 minutes to complete. Anyone can go through this process, it’s free and there is no commitment to apply for membership. Most people find it a thought-provoking experience.

Naturally, it is absolutely essential that you answer the questions as honestly as possible. We are not expecting perfection!

Once you have completed the questionnaire, you will receive a summary and a detailed response to your answers.

Providing you have attained the pass rate, which is not onerously high, you will be invited to apply for membership. You will be asked to decide if you would prefer quarterly or annual membership payments and to sign the Pledge (as above.) You then submit your request.

One of the ORB team will then do a little bit of due diligence investigation and also call the appropriate person for a chat. If we are happy that your company meets the membership criteria we will set up a GoCardless direct debit and, once that has been authorised, make your membership live.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries or any suggestions.