Every business has an impact on society. Now, more than ever before, having a positive impact is increasingly important. Enter corporate social responsibility (CSR), an obligation a company makes towards supporting people, communities, and the world at large. Between humanitarian projects, environmental projects, and companies that go above and beyond to support their employees, there are many, diverse corporate social responsibility trends. This article will dive into exactly what CSR is and how it’s being practiced.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
But first, what is corporate social responsibility? We can generally understand the concept to refer to a business’ self-regulatory measures and controls to determine their impact on society. Understanding their contributions—both positive and negative—an organization can take steps to minimize their negative contributions and enhance those that are positive.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has a well-regarded corporate social responsibility definition:
“CSR is generally understood as being the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (“Triple-Bottom-Line-Approach”), while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.”
Why is Social Responsibility Important?
So, then why is social responsibility important? While CSR can be good for business, it has benefits that extend far beyond the organization itself.
CSR helps an organization attract and retain employees
It feels good to work for a company that is doing good. Companies engaged in CSR are attractive for new employees and better at retaining existing employees. Research has found that companies engaged in CSR reported staff turnover rates that were an impressive 50% lower.
Research has also demonstrated that organizations that adopted a CSR program reported an astounding 16% boost in employee productivity.
CSR plays an important role in improving customers’ perception of your brand
The 2021 PwC Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, found that 53% chose to support companies “very often or often” that had strong company values and demonstrated a commitment to doing the right thing. 77% of American consumers were motivated to do the same, with 74% of UK consumers also considering brand values before making a purchase.
CSR improves a company’s bottom line
Simply put, CSR is good for business. Most investors consider CSR a sign of ethical corporate behavior that minimizes risk. A 2022 study found that CSR can boost a business’ bottom line by creating value, increasing innovation, improving customer and employee relations, and expanding growth options.
CSR has the potential to make a company more competitive, lower financing costs, and increase overall economic value. Not only that, but it’s the way of the future. Business as usual is harming our planet. Using business as a force for good has the potential to save it.
CSR makes our world a better place
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were actually designed to engage the private sector in addressing some of the modern world’s most pressing challenges. The private sector has a tremendous ability to mobilize resources—and do so at a level far higher than governments. In the US, for example, private sector spending is more than 7X that of the government, and 20X that of nonprofits!
While there are limits to private sector involvement, and some CSR efforts are more lip service than anything else. These efforts do have the ability to elicit real, lasting change. Below are some organizations demonstrating exactly that.
Corporate Social Responsibility Examples
When it comes to corporate social responsibility examples, some of the most common CSR actions include:
- measuring and reducing environmental impact (by partnering with an organization like Verco);
- improving labor practices;
- participating in ethical sourcing;
- engaging in charitable global giving;
- using renewable energy (provided by companies like Octopus Energy);
- providing opportunities for workplace volunteering;
- adopting corporate policies that benefit the environment (like recycling through TerraCycle);
- making socially and environmentally conscious investments; and
- committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Here’s what top corporate social responsibility looks like for some organizations around the globe.
Chatterbox, teaching languages and changing lives
UK-based Chatterbox uses cutting-edge A.I. assisted learning to teach English, French, Spanish, and Arabic to students all over the world—and does so by employing refugees and marginalized people to teach language skills. This has connected more than 1,500 learners with teachers, creating bridges between refugees and their host communities.
Over 50% of the organization’s profits are paid as salaries to the refugee language coaches.
Entocycle, insect farming to sustainably meet protein demands
Entocycle is one of the organizations revolutionizing the global food system by incorporating insects. Their 100% UK-grown insects provide a complete protein equipped with healthy fats and minerals. And they do so with a much lower environmental footprint than farmed animals or the soy that’s used to feed farmed animals.
Bike Club, shrinking the impact of quickly-growing kids
Providing subscription-based kids bikes, UK organization Bike Club is rethinking ownership to instead allow children to ride bikes that can be upgraded as they grow. In doing so, they’re able to support the ‘access economy’ (i.e., renting to avoid mass consumption), and make cycling more affordable and sustainable.
Rype Office, low carbon office furniture to save money and the planet
Discovering that furniture is the biggest source of carbon emissions in a commercial building, Rype Office remanufactures high-quality furniture and creates new pieces from waste materials. Not only does this reduce emissions and save money for companies, but their business model also creates jobs for long-term unemployed individuals with disabilities.
Leanpath, solving global food waste issues
Hailing from the US but operating in 40 countries, Leanpath food waste tracking solutions have a global impact. They provide food companies with data that prevents food waste. On average, a 50% reduction in food waste per site is reported after they partner with Leanpath, a Certified B Corp.
In fact, many of the best socially responsible companies are also verified! Certified B Corporations are those, like Work for Impact, who meet high standards regarding social and environmental performance.
Final Thoughts on Corporate Social Responsibility
It’s important to recognize socially responsible companies, not just to commend their efforts, but to encourage other organizations to incorporate social good into their missions. With so many types of corporate social responsibility, it’s easy for a company to engage with one or several that best suit their size, business model, and operational goals. When we all work for impact, we can help to support a greener, more equitable future.