Last week, we discussed what a Social Enterprise is and how they function. In our own context, we referred to a Social Enterprise as an enterprise that directly addresses social needs through their products and services or through the numbers of disadvantaged people they employ.
What differentiates social enterprises is that their social mission is as core to their success as any potential profit. Many commercial enterprises would consider themselves to have social objectives, but commitment to these objectives is motivated by the perception that such commitment will ultimately make the enterprise more financially valuable. These are organisations that might be more properly said to be operating corporate responsibility programs.
Now, what is then Corporate Social Responsibility? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society. Liz Maw, CEO of nonprofit organization Net Impact, noted that CSR is becoming more mainstream as forward-thinking companies embed sustainability into the core of their business operations to create shared value for business and society. “Sustainability isn’t just important for people and the planet, but also is vital for business success,” said Maw, whose company connects students and professionals who want to use business skills to do social good.
“Communities are grappling with problems that are global in scope and structurally multifaceted – Ebola, persistent poverty, climate change. The business case for engaging in corporate social responsibility is clear and unmistakable. Billions are at stake if fast and large-scale action is not taken.”
CSR can encompass a wide variety of tactics, from giving non-profit organizations a portion of a company’s proceeds, to giving away a product or service to a worthy recipient for every sale made. Here are a few of the broad categories of social responsibility that businesses are practicing.
Environment: One primary focus of corporate social responsibility is the environment. Businesses, both large and small, have a large carbon footprint. Any steps they can take to reduce those footprints are considered both good for the company and society as a whole.
Philanthropy: Businesses also practice social responsibility by donating to national and local charities. Whether it involves giving money or time, businesses have a lot of resources that can benefit charities and local community programs.
Ethical labor practices: By treating employees fairly and ethically, companies can also demonstrate their corporate social responsibility.
While many companies now practice some form of social responsibility, some are making it a core of their operations. Ben and Jerry’s, for instance, uses only fair trade ingredients and has developed a dairy farm sustainability program in its home state of Vermont. Starbucks has created its C.A.F.E. Practices guidelines, which are designed to ensure the company sources sustainably grown and processed coffee by evaluating the economic, social and environmental aspects of coffee production. Tom’s Shoes, another notable example of a company with CSR at its core, donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair a customer purchases.
Undertaking socially responsible initiatives is truly a win-win situation. Not only will your company appeal to socially conscious consumers and employees, but you will also make a real difference.
Reference used What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
By Nicole Fallon Taylor, Business News Daily Assistant Editor