What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

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Companies are being held to a higher standard socially today than ever before. Consumer and investor actions show that succeeding as a business is more than just turning a profit — it’s also the commitment of a company to ignite their values and mission and amplify the passions of their employees to benefit the communities around them. 

In fact, 55% of American consumers want companies to “take a stand on key social, environmental, and political issues” and nearly half of millennial investors prioritize understanding a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.1

What is CSR?

The concept of CSR encompasses this principle by integrating impact with business development goals. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) states,  “CSR is generally understood as being the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (“Triple-Bottom-Line- Approach”), while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.”2

CSR strategies can vary from business to business, but they are typically focused on connecting a company’s mission and values to its impact goals. Businesses looking to create a comprehensive CSR strategy prioritize environmental, ethical, philanthropic, and economic responsibility.3 This can look like developing or recreating sustainability guidelines, initiating corporate philanthropy campaigns, or partnering with local nonprofits to fill a need within the community.

How to Meet Today’s High Bar for CSR

 

This eGuide offers up five program types to include in your CSR mix to help drive positive impact for your community, engage employees, connect with customers, be prepared for the unexpected, and please your board or executive sponsors. This guide provides program descriptions, a look at benefits, examples of real programs (with links), and additional resources.

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CSR in Implementation

Development of CSR strategies can take place within small- to mid-sized companies, as well as multinational corporations. Today, there are plenty of examples of companies using their platforms to bring light to thousands of issues and to further causes important to them and their employees. For example, in early 2021 Pinterest announced new social impact efforts that aimed to prioritize employee well-being. Their efforts included: expanding opportunities for employee volunteerism, matching employee donations, and expanding corporate charitable giving by increasing stock shares in grants.4

So You Want to Implement a CSR Program? 

Starting a CSR program within your company is no simple task, but the outcomes are worth the energy it takes to get things going. One approach is to identify areas where you can increase transparency in your business initiatives and match that with cause areas that are important to your organization. Another is to plan philanthropy endeavors that align with your company’s mission and vision. Good alignment is one step to avoiding mission creep, which can cause your programs to keep shifting in response to the latest social trend or disaster.

Sometimes a company finds that their CEO, leadership team or group of employees initiates philanthropy programs because of personal passions that others are motivated by. To see a CSR initiative move from a passion project to reality, communication within the company is key. In Dave Stangis’ interview in the Bright Minds Series he mentions that one of the primary steps to initiating a CSR program is getting internal alignment at your company.5

Another important step is to clearly communicate that the value of a CSR program is critical to the business. “The way to get people aligned is to address what is the value to the business – not just what is the value to me as a person passionate about this, but what value can this bring to the business, our employees and society. Helping the company understand the return on investment is critical,” said Stangis. 

Understanding corporate social responsibility requires the awareness to know where your company stands, what it stands for, and how you can practically align the business to make the greatest impact. To learn more about CSR and how to begin planning your strategy with your team check out Dave Stangis’ full interview in the Bright Minds Series.

You might also be interested in reading: Extend Your CSR Initiatives to Boost Employee Engagement

Sarah Hinson

Sarah Hinson

Sarah is a Marketing Coordinator at Bright Funds. She draws on nonprofit communications experience to raise awareness and increase engagement for mission driven organizations. Combining that with her passion for community development, education and corporate social responsibility, she hopes to continue to help others see their impact and get connected to a cause they care about.