How Do You Define Corporate Social Responsibility?

  • Feb 13, 2013

To Practice Corporate Social responsibility, First You Need to Define It

Defining Corporate Social Responsibility

Austin, Texas: I hear the term CSR and “corporate social responsibility” tossed around a great deal by the media as well as many large clients.

Some organizations truly pracvtice this goal– as they carefully vet their entire supply chain for standard work wages, energy-efficient shipping methods and production, and an eye toward a cleaner planet.

Others like to use the term as a buzzword, much like “managing by walking around”, “brainstorming”, “incent”, “downsizing” and other words that tend to camouflage the real definition.

A recent article in discusses the meaning of corporate social responsibility.

They chose their three favorite definitions for that term:

The first is contained in the Brundtland Commission’s report “ Our Common Future,” from the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which defined “sustainable development” as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

I like that definition because it is simple, to the point and paints a vivid picture of a world that replenishes and nurtures what it uses for eternity.

A second definition is provided by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index: “Corporate sustainability is a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental and social developments.

This definition tends to focus more on the corporate side of CSR – but does not truly get to the heart of a reduction in the use of natural resources. It focuses too heavily on managing the risks from these developments. And, judging from prior experience, with the focus on short-term gains vs. long-term vision, poses a scary and cavalier attitude toward true corporate social responsibility.

The article then cites their “favorite definition, which I think captures the spirit of both of these reference points — covering the breadth of CSR without overstating the role of business vis-Ã -vis other societal actors. I cite again Cramer and Karabell in “Sustainable Excellence”:

“A sustainable business is one that delivers value for investors, customers, and employees; improves the living standards of its employees and the communities it touches; makes wise use of natural resources; and treats people fairly.”

I think this definition is by far the best– because it incorporates business goals of growth and value with the treatment of people in the supply chain and the judicious use of natural resources.

Natural resources cannot all be replenished. But they can be re-used, recycled and products can be designed to minimize their waste.

Let’s hope that the next time a CEO goes on televison and talks about corporate social responsibility, he means this third definition.

Anything less is doble-speak to mean the complete opposite of its true definition.

How do you define corporate social responsibility?

  • Category: green marketing
  • Tags: corporate social responsibility, CSR, eco marketing, ecomarketing, green marketing