Once seen as a purely philanthropic activity with no positive bottom-line impact, Corporate Social Responsibility is gaining popularity and moving to the forefront at leading global organisations.

As a manager, you may have heard of this term before and at first wondered if its just another passing fad.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

CSR is the corporate belief that a company needs to be responsible for its actions socially, ethically and environmentally. Also known as ‘community relations’ it is demonstrated when a company fosters an open relationship that is sensitive to the local community. Companies recognise the need to play a proactive, cooperative and collaborative role to make the society a better place to live and conduct business. This influences their brand image, credibility and overall consumer trust.

However, when using the terms ‘community relations’ be aware that it’s more than just sponsoring a beach walk for a charity or a once a year event where employees can volunteer for a cause. Many business leaders today believe CSR should be embedded in the essence, the mission, and the brand of an organisation, influencing even day-to-day decisions to satisfy all the stakeholders involved.

It is an important business strategy because customers prefer to buy products from companies they trust; suppliers want to form business partnerships with companies that are reliable; and most employees seek to work for companies they respect. Satisfying each of these stakeholder groups allows companies to maximise their commitment to another important stakeholder group—the investors, who benefit most when the needs of these other stakeholder groups are being met.

What is the role of a manager in CSR?

With the power to communicate and implement ideas, policies, and cultural and behavioural change in organisations, managers play an integral part in fulfilling an organisation’s CSR objectives once they are defined.

Beyond organising the occasional community service activity, managers can use their organisation’s CSR philosophy during partner selection, when developing brand ideas, and in HR practices.

Even at the recruitment stage CSR impacts job seeker decisions. Twenty years ago issues such as human rights records, environmental policies and levels of community involvement wouldn’t have affected job seekers decisions as they do today. CSR is proving to be good not only for branding, publicity and the bottom line, but it can also be a valuable recruiting tool as these statistics demonstrate:

In a survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada in 2000, 71% of employees want to work for companies that commit to social and community concerns. Furthermore, GlobeScan conducted an international survey in 2002 which showed that eight in ten people who worked for a large company felt greater motivation and loyalty towards their jobs and companies the more socially responsible their employers were.

Overall Benefits

Organisations are coming to realise the bottom-line benefits of integrating CSR into their businesses. CSR initiatives can boost good image, publicity and media value for firms. They also promote sensitivity to social issues and serve as opportunities to address misconceptions and help gauge the level of brand awareness. As awareness increases, so do standards of quality and sustainability.

Does your business have a CSR strategy? How does it affect you as a manager?

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