Corporate Social Responsibility – A perspective

So what does Corporate Social Responsibility actually mean?

According to International Standard ISO 26000, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is defined by as an organisation’s responsibility for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment, through transparent and ethical behaviour that:

  • Contributes towards sustainable development, including the health and well-being of society;
  • Takes into account the expectations of stakeholders;
  • Is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour;
  • Is integrated throughout the organisation and practised in its relationships.

However, there is no universal definition for CSR. For example, the European Commission’s definition of CSR includes the following elements:

  • Labour practices, such as human rights, work and training, diversity, gender equality, workers’ health and well-being;
  • Environmental issues such as biodiversity, climate change, efficient use of resources and prevention of pollution;
  • The fight against corruption;
  • Involvement and contribution to community development;
  • The inclusion of people in situations of inequality;
  • The interests and benefits of consumers.

In other words, a company’s Social Responsibility is not just donating money or goods to people or institutions in need. It’s much more than that. It’s a commitment the company makes to contribute to the development, well-being and improved quality of life of its workers, their families and the wider community.

If a company undertakes several community support programmes, but fails to recognise its employees’ performance, is in debt to its suppliers, does not comply with the legislation governing its business activity, has a hostile work environment and doesn’t look after the health and safety of its employees, then it’s a company which falls far short of being socially responsible.

Being socially responsible means being coherent in managing the business, making decisions with integrity, responsibility and trustworthiness, and transparently reporting to all stakeholders the results of applying the company’s principles and values.

Socially responsible organisations encourage their employees to enjoy active participation by enabling them to suggest new ways of using available resources and optimising processes, open their doors to young interns thereby affording them contact with company life, and actively contribute towards developing the community in which they operate.

It’s easy to conclude that the concepts of social responsibility and sustainability are inextricably linked and are based on the same foundations: economic growth, environmental responsibility, social responsibility and good governance practices.

Keeping these factors in equilibrium is sometimes difficult, and therefore requires the perseverance and skill of company managers to simultaneously deliver sustained economic growth to their shareholders, reduce environmental impacts and contribute towards society’s quality of life, by creating wealth.

Such equilibrium is only possible through focusing on innovation, and not only innovation relating to product development but also that applied to developing processes, capabilities and skills, and the business model itself.