What is meant by corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), also known as Business Social Responsibility, is defined as the sense of responsibility that a business or any other business entity has towards the community and the environment, both as a natural and geographical environment and as a social context in which it operates.
CSR is a form of citizenship that businesses, organizations, and profit-making entities can express by trying to reduce processes that pollute or produce waste, participating in educational and social programs, and ultimately returning to society and the context in which they operate the resources they exploit to carry out their activities.
How corporate CSR was born
To better understand CSR, it is necessary to study its history. The concept dates back to 1953 and Howard R. Bowen’s book “Social Responsibility of Businessman,” which asks what responsibilities towards society can be expected from those who manage a business.
Over the years, definitions of CSR have multiplied, and one of the most well-known is Archie B. Carroll’s CSR pyramid, elaborated in 1991 and still among the most accredited. Carroll suggests that corporate social responsibility should be fulfilled at four different levels: at the base, there is profit, but in the long term. In the second tier, there is the duty of companies to respect laws and regulations, from labor rights to public health.
Above that is ethics, understood as an industriousness that underlies morality, going beyond written laws, for example, through greater attention to customers and suppliers. At the top of Carroll’s pyramid is philanthropic responsibility, which is the commitment to return to society the value derived from the business. Today, it includes all those voluntary actions that involve every aspect of business life, from the working climate to gender equality, diversity, and initiatives aimed at safeguarding the environment and social development.
Why is it important to communicate CSR?
Businesses need to communicate their CSR and how different social responsibility strategies are implemented. Paying attention to how the company appears to stakeholders is crucial to building a dialogue aimed at understanding and incorporating their opinions into the company’s decision-making processes and addressing global challenges. Additionally, there are numerous competitive advantages, including the creation of new market opportunities, increased customer satisfaction and trust, brand reputation growth, improved employee satisfaction levels, virtuous relationships with the community and local authorities, and cost reductions.
To communicate CSR correctly, it is essential to focus on the innovative actions taken by the company, such as improving working conditions, salaries, benefits, or increasing jobs. Some examples include all actions aimed at improving personal satisfaction, health and safety, training, equal opportunities, and work/life balance.
Communication can focus on the voluntary activities supported by the company through owners or employees, donations, or sponsorships, or other ways in which the company promotes economic renewal. Some examples include company efforts to improve social integration, welfare, education, quality of life, local infrastructure, and safety.
Finally, through communication, it is possible to demonstrate the company’s efforts regarding environmental protection and conservation. For example, all those company initiatives that include the reduction of energy and water consumption, the reduction of the use of hazardous chemicals, and the production of toxic waste.
Which CSR tools can be used by companies?
To communicate CSR correctly, one must start with the objective, then identify the best strategy and finally the most suitable tools for CSR communication. If the goal is to involve employees more, classic tools of internal communication such as Intranet, mailing lists, and house organs could be chosen.
A different approach is recommended if the aim is to make the results of one’s CSR activities public. In this case, the community being addressed is broad and varied, and above all, may not yet be sensitive enough to the themes of corporate responsibility. Therefore, the most effective approach is through:
- storytelling: intercept media’s interest, thanks to current events;
- brand journalism projects;
- communication campaigns aimed at all media (including digital);
- through websites dedicated to CSR communication
Finally, another interesting challenge is identifying influencers or ambassadors, such as company employees, for social initiatives in which they are engaged.
categories: opinioni e attualità