What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
by Adrian Braun
The concept of CSR has definitely relations to the notions of sustainability and the triple-bottom-line. Both terms comprise the three dimensions environment, society and economy. In practice, this is linked to profitable organisations and to what extent these business actors consider the three dimensions. In a simplified portrayal an organisation should try to minimise all negative ecological impacts caused by their activities and allow or possibly improve the social performance (e.g. better protection and working conditions for workforces, fair salaries or wages). Furthermore, by considering environmental and social aspects, it is simultaneously essential to find a balance of the named three dimensions, remain profitable, competitive, and achieve persistence on the market. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for example defined CSR as follows:
“Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.”
CSR has reference to the notion of “soft-law”. The basic idea is that governmental actors should not set up a legal framework and prescriptions to achieve a socially and environmentally responsible behaviour of organisations. The concept of CSR is in a process of continuous development. In the past few years, with respect to corporate practices, the importance of global reporting standards increased significantly in the context of the CSR debate. Global reporting standards are policy initiatives by international organisations that provide guidelines, principles or management system structures to apply CSR methods within companies. For instance, the United Nations Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines are worldwide-recognized standards. The relevance of the global reporting standards and the willingness to consider the wide range of guidelines is a meaningful component in the field of CSR.
The key word in CSR is responsibility. Each business should be aware of its complete spectrum of responsibilities, embracing all issues and all parties that are linked to the business. Do you know who are your potential clients and investors? It is good to know! Do you know your competitors and did you ever talked to them? If yes, it should be good. Do you know the people that oppose your business? Better you know them and better don´t take it easily for granted that there is nobody with concerns towards your business?
No matter if you are facing proponents or opponents of your business, it is always a beneficial practice to know your corporate responsibilities and follow them to the greatest possible extent. With well established CSR strategies, the proponents may develop to loyal customers and shareholders of your business or at least business and networking partners that bring you forward in the long run and your opponents have much less ground in their argumentation against you, in case you have an authentic implementation of CSR.