Corporate Social Responsibility

Benefiting Both Your Business and the Community

Make corporate involvement strategic.

© iStockphoto/CharlesTaylor

Today's societies often ask more from major corporations than simply making a profit and paying taxes.

There's a general expectation that companies should do their best to trade fairly, uphold human rights, and protect the environment. And the focus is not just on big corporations: small companies are often asked to support local causes and play their part in community development.

So, how can a business manage these expectations, but benefit its bottom line as well? A successful Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy can help.

Understanding CSR

No company exists by itself in a vacuum. Every business operates in society, whether on a global or local scale. Its impact and behavior – ethical, social, economic, and environmental – are open to examination and criticism, typically from politicians, the media, and other campaigners, as well as from its own customers.

Corporate history is full of examples of companies that have suffered commercially because they've behaved in ways that are unacceptable to the public. Clothing manufacturers have been damaged by the discovery of child labor in their supply chains, while oil companies have been charged with environmental damage and complicity with human rights abuses. And, of course, there have been many recent accusations (some devastating) that the financial houses of Wall Street and the City of London do not perform any "socially useful" activity.

These cases show the kinds of risk to reputation that can be associated with an organization's business activity. CSR helps manage such risk. It's not just about charitable giving or philanthropy. Effective CSR is about strategically positioning a company in society so that it can actually take advantage of public concerns, like poverty or global warming, rather than be damaged by them.

A company's CSR program needs to consider...

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