What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
Corporate Social Responsibility is the integration of ethical standards and legal compliance into the culture and operations of a business.
The overarching theme of CSR is that corporations are responsible for their social and environmental impact, not just their economic impact. A core belief of CST supporters is that businesses need to build checks and balances into their operations so they can effectively mitigate their impact on society and the environment.
From a corporation’s perspective, the goal of CSR is to improve their image and public relations, reduce business and legal risks (by following the law), and thereby increase longterm profits.
Things to know about CSR
- CSR is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Corporations are starting to see that they can improve their brand image by advertising their CSR. Many corporations have bolstered their CSR programs for marketing purposes.
- CSR is good, but not all CSR is authentic. Just like greenwashing of eco-friendly products, many corporations advertise the good things they are doing while keeping quiet about the bad parts of their business. The most trustworthy corporations have transparent sustainability reports that not only highlight their progress but also show how much work they have left to do.
- Corporations who are truly making a difference shouldn’t have to advertise their CSR; social and environmental responsibility will be built into their business model.
- CSR and sustainability reports are becoming more commonplace, but they are often long and complex. The everyday person isn’t going to read through a fifty page CSR report from Nike, so it’s easy to just see the highlights on your social media feed. Finding a trusted source for you news is a good way to get up on CSR without having to do hours of research.
Conscious Consumers and CSR
Conscious consumers pay attention to CSR because right now it’s much easier to understand the ethics and values of a brand, rather than the social and environmental impact of individual products. By understanding the CSR of a brand, conscious consumers can take some solace in the fact that the products that brand produces align with the values of the company. Once a conscious consumer does their initial research to find brands that share their values, they can support that brand by purchasing their products over others.
There are many different factors to consider around CSR and it’s difficult to understand the full CSR of a company. Some rating services like CSR Hub give a comprehensive score to companies based on factors such as how they treat their employees, their environmental stance, and their contribution to their community.
Why you should care
Understanding the CSR of a corporation can make the difference between boycotting a brand and being an advocate. Before making a purchase, you should make sure the values and actions of a brand match your values. If you strongly believe in outlawing animal cruelty, you should make sure the products you purchase come from brands that believe the same.