Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a company’s efforts to align its corporate values with those of its surrounding community and environment. It is the understanding that for a business to survive, it must take responsibility for the society in which it operates. In 2011 the European Commission proposed a new definition of CSR as: “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. Respect for applicable legislation, and for collective agreements between social partners, is a prerequisite for meeting that responsibility.
CSR at least covers human rights, labour and employment practices (such as training, diversity, gender equality and employee health and well-being), environmental issues (such as biodiversity, climate change, resource efficiency, life-cycle assessment and pollution prevention), and combating bribery and corruption. Community involvement and development, the integration of disabled persons, and consumer interests, including privacy, are also part of the CSR agenda. The promotion of social and environmental responsibility through the supply-chain, and the disclosure of non-financial information, are recognised as important cross-cutting issues.
In short CSR offers a set of values on which to build a more cohesive society and on which to base the transition to a sustainable economic system.
What benefits can be derived from implementing a CSR policy?
The economic crisis and its social consequences have to some extent damaged consumer confidence and levels of trust in business. It has focused public attention on the social and ethical performance of enterprises.
All organisations and enterprises need to be trusted by citizens. Unfortunately there is often a gap between citizens’ expectations and what they perceive to be the reality of business behaviour. This gap is caused partly by instances of irresponsible behaviour by some enterprises, as well as by cases of some enterprises exaggerating their environmental or social credentials. Sometimes it is caused by an insufficient understanding on the part of some enterprises of fast evolving societal expectations, as well as by an insufficient awareness on the part of citizens of the achievements of enterprises and the constraints under which they operate.
Innovative, effective and well-communicated CSR policies can help bridge the gap and impact positively on competitiveness. CSR is about more than philanthropy – it is a strategic way of using your company’s resources to make a real difference in your community, while having a positive impact on your team and the bottom line.
- OECD guidelines for multinational companies
- The 10 principles of the UN Global Compact
- The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- The ILO Tri-partite Declaration of Principles on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy
- The ISO 26000 Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility
- A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility
- Examples of Global Framework Agreements
- The Global Reporting Initiative
- AA1000 Assurance Standard 2008