What is the definition of corporate social responsibility or CSR? Many companies and different organizations try to define corporate social responsibility but get into lengthy explanations that leave readers confused or requiring more information.
I’d like to take a moment and review the different definitions of corporate social responsibility that are currently available and see if we can come up with a lowest common denominator that encompasses all of these definitions.
Triple Pundit defines corporate social responsibility as the following
“CSR is defined as a business outlook that acknowledges responsibilities to stakeholders not traditionally accepted, including suppliers, customers, and employees as well as local and international communities in which it operates and the natural environment.”
I think this definition might need a little more explaining. What was traditionally accepted? It includes some examples of what was not traditionally accepted but I feel we could simplify things if we tried.
Investopedia defines corporate social responsibility in a simple way. Here is there definition.
“Corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare.”
This definition is by far more simplistic, but I think this is lacking too. Does this mean that once a company assesses their environmental and social impact they create a corporate initiative to tell the public they know they are responsible for their impact? This definition does not say what the initiative should interact with the company’s effects on the environment.
Simplistic definitions of corporate social responsibility should encompass the context of how and where a business operates. Since we live in a global economy with corporations operating in many countries, an article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review proposes a new outlook on Corporate Social Responsibility,
“We propose an updated notion of corporate social responsibility – global corporate social responsibility – that reflects the fact that people hold firms responsible for actions far beyond their boundaries, including the actions of suppliers, distributors, alliance partners, and even sovereign nations. Our research suggests that the standards for global CSR will be just as international as corporations themselves: the European Union will set the tone for product and environmental standards, the United States will largely shape governance guidelines, and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will drive human rights and labor rules.”
This most certainly reflects what accountability might look like if nations work together to regulate some sort of global standard, but that would require everyone playing nicely together without special interest. Seems like a very challenging task. I think this concept is one we should not forget, but this concept is not a one size fits all.
My organization REACH The Future came up with a simple way that defines corporate social responsibility (CSR) that we think does a good job relating to every business regardless of context.
“A perspective that businesses have a responsibility to invest in sustaining the resources it requires to operate and the community and environment it operates in.”
This we felt encompasses all aspects of the business and reflects whatever type of scope or reach a particular business may have.
There are many other definitions of corporate social responsibility out there and it would be nice if we could all decide on one that works for everyone.
Who has the right definition of CSR? This is a tough question and I would imagine this definition will continue to evolve with the immediate concerns of our communities and our environments.
If you think you have the one size fits all definition of corporate social responsibility, please offer your comments below.