Corporate Social Responsibility, Defined

Jan 18, 2011   //   by Bradley Short   //   Blog, Company Culture, Investors & Stakeholders, Terminology, The Environment  //  1 Comment

At BusinessEarth, we talk about CSR (corporate social responsibility) a lot, but we don’t always explain it as thoroughly as we should.  In light of this, here’s a CSR primer that will help clear any confusion.

CSR is work that creates value inside and outside of a company by aligning business goals with social and environmental needs.

BusinessEarth believes that CSR and profitability are not mutually exclusive.  Rather, a solid CSR program can pay for itself with tangible savings and profit opportunities and, like any other well-conceived investment, will pay dividends in the long run.

Benefits include: increased profit margins via efficiency initiatives; a more dedicated and passionate workforce, resulting in better recruiting and retention of employees and a work environment where innovation is standard fare; a more loyal customer base; more positive press (and less negative press!); and peace of mind.

Let’s break CSR down into three parts and look at each word individually and how it relates to the concept as a whole.

Corporate: CSR takes place within companies.  Though it often begins with a single initiative, it ultimately needs to become something that permeates throughout an organization, establishing a corporate set of values (and actions) that are noticeable in all parts of a company’s work.  CSR never sacrifices business operations. Instead, CSR finds innovative solutions to big problems while building value for companies and communities alike.

Social: Business does not take place in a vacuum.  Companies affect all parts of society, including customers, shareholders, employees, the environment and communities around manufacturing facilities, distributions centers, stores and customers, etc (collectively, “stakeholders”).  CSR involves awareness of this interconnectivity; paying attention to what’s going on around us and our impact (good and bad).  Responsible companies realize that aligning their business functions with social causes is a winning strategy.  Good CSR programs include a focus on social interactions, communication and transparency.

Responsibility: Responsibility manifests itself in a number of different ways.  Many companies focus on environmental responsibility, including minimizing waste and pollution, becoming more energy efficient, avoiding the use of toxic materials, and relying on renewable sources of materials.  But responsibility isn’t limited to the environment.  Leading responsible companies also include responsible labor practices, like providing good health services and vacation time, and active philanthropy, such as promoting education in local disadvantaged neighborhoods.

CSR is an evolving concept and we look forward to the day that no definition is necessary…that it is standard business practice.  Keep up to date at BusinessEarth.com and follow us on Twitter @BusinessEarth and Facebook to learn more about how to implement and benefit from a CSR program, more about the value of responsibility, and where other companies are finding real measurable success through their own corporate social responsibility initiatives.  Come see how we can help you and your company profit, responsibly.