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The Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in Today’s Business Environment

1. Introduction to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Furthermore, most corporate experts agree that the interest in CSR would never have gotten off the ground or gained so much traction and power if it had not been for the stupendous boost received through the agency of the Internet – texts and blogs, chat rooms and exhaustive documents and academic and professional studies quickly appeared that described and appraised all the ups and downs, advantages and risks, of what had formerly been dismissed as questionable and marginal. These new communication sources and gadgets became extremely proficient in simultaneously seizing the interest of a wide variety of interested parties – from managers and civil groups to consultants and investors. The result: today interest in CSR grows apace in all the world’s countries and in all types of businesses. But unlike other fashionable ideas in the business world, CSR is much more than a passing consumer fad or a purely short-term commercial venture. It is becoming an intrinsic and very deeply rooted part of a company’s business activities – the basis of a business strategy that cannot be marginalized or avoided without the high risk of jeopardizing serious values and competitive potential. In fact, without integrating responsibility into the main practice areas of a company, it becomes impossible to create and maintain any sustainable value.

It is exceedingly rare to find a modern company that does not want to do well by doing good. Indeed, most companies place a high premium on ethical behavior – not only in regard to their own employees, but also in regard to honoring the dignity, rights, well-being, and concerns of others who are impacted by their decisions and actions. This societal orientation is classified as a business’ “corporate social responsibility” – or CSR – orientation. This focus is directed to ensure that the company conducts an extensive analysis of the various interests and concerns of its myriad stakeholders, as well as taking concrete steps to meet or exceed the combined demands and needs of those stakeholders. The sum of these varied actions is seen as an investment, not just an expense item, because they not only build robust competitive capabilities but also underpin the ability of the business entity to create value for its owners.

2. Benefits of CSR for Businesses

Fosters Strong Employee Relations It goes without saying that employees are the single most important asset for any company. Employees are the cornerstone of a company’s success, so keeping staff happy and motivated is vital. In this global economy, employees also want to feel good about their company and the industry they work in, which makes CSR practices particularly important. Companies that make strides to operate in a responsible manner will benefit from having happier, motivated employees, and as a company stands by its mission and vision, employees will further align themselves with the company that believes in what is right and in what is needed in society. As a result, employee productivity and morale will increase. This is particularly significant because we all know that unhappy employees can kill a company and productivity. Prioritizing CSR initiatives will help prevent these concerns and will make all employees feel as though they’re contributing to the greater good. By creating a strong, inclusive work culture, companies stand to gain immensely and also harbor more talent. With the right workforce in place, there’s no telling what new opportunities will come to the company.

Businesses that employ proper corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies can expect to experience a number of benefits, and retaining a positive bottom line is just one of them. It’s important that business owners, executives, and managers recognize these benefits and understand that in order to realize them, they must first embrace the concept of CSR. The primary benefits of CSR for businesses are improved goodwill and the potential for financial gain, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies that take CSR seriously understand that their long-term success is closely tied to their ability to operate in a responsible manner.

3. Challenges and Criticisms of CSR

It is often the (understandably) sensational examples of unacceptable corporate malpractice that bring social responsibility to the public’s attention. And although press coverage of these issues is often short-lived, the public’s awareness takes longer to fade. Companies are often left (and sometimes forced) to self-regulate in these areas before the law catches up. From a business perspective, it would be helpful if there were universal principles on which to base social responsibilities, but this is not the case. Companies can, therefore, be criticized for not adopting internationally accepted principles. When we take such a broad view of corporate social responsibility (as we do here), criticizing companies (or societies or governments or the world at large) for not fulfilling all of these objectives can appear easy. But in the real world, business is full of hard choices, many of which are not simple and some of which are contradictory. For example, today’s consumer is very price-conscious (as well as quality-conscious), but for a company to produce goods or services at low prices, changes elsewhere (the care of workers, etc.) are often difficult to achieve. Companies who act only for the short term, maximizing profit at all costs, face difficulty in increasing their earnings but in the long term. Profit maximization doesn’t work as a business objective if those profits come from more noble business goals than simply over-earning. At what cost to society does social responsibility come, and who, ultimately, should pay that cost?

In an ideal world where everywhere is afforded the same opportunities, there would be no need for corporate social responsibility – companies would simply act responsibly. But this is not a perfect world, and companies can and do act in ways that are not in the best interests of society. In some countries, accounting is still not truly international, and there may be differences in the way that corporate social responsibility is recognized as being an essential part of business practice. The definition of company business is often constrained by national borders, company charters, and markets, allowing companies to act differently in different countries. With today’s internationally traded companies, this has become a global issue. Indeed, the broader the interpretation of corporate social responsibility, the more likely it is that there will be differences in the way it is employed in different countries. For example, workers’ and human rights may have different legal interpretations in different countries, and as a consequence, this may force companies to act differently.

4. Best Practices and Strategies for Implementing CSR

A unique tool to support your CSR vision or mission is a good way to achieve strong CSR program results, and the result is a natural fit with your products or services creating market opportunity. The Chess for Life program from Zillions Development Corporation is based on a fun, value-based educational board game that teaches kids problem-solving and life strategies. The game fosters healthy competition and teamwork. It enhances kids’ skills in patience, focus, imagination, dealing with change, the value of money, and preparation for life. The game offers extraordinary growth opportunities as a family game and can be used by community agencies, corporations, educators and schools, college-program coordinators, and governors’ offices. Results prove that dedicated use of the Chess for Life educational board game fosters a stronger, wiser, and more responsible individual and uses fun and competition to make a valued member of corporate society.

Just as individual companies do not often invest in projects with poor returns, successful companies have been able to demonstrate that being socially responsible can have important, measurable, positive impacts on employees, customers, communities, and business results. The following corporate success stories are taken from the Business for Social Responsibility report, VISIBLE INVESTMENTS, which presents survey results of 70 companies recognized for their corporate social actions.

5. Case Studies of Successful CSR Initiatives

This is demonstrated by reports on companies’ performance, emphasis given to social and environmental aspects, and modification of management systems. It indicates ongoing concern on the part of businesses to reconcile their missions, collections of interests in which merchants, investors, and workers participate, with the needs of society as a whole. The purpose of this section is not to carry out a comparative analysis of the strategies that can be followed in the CSR field. The CSR field is too recent and initially was formed around subjects better adapted to normative goals. It gives some examples of how the business world approaches the issue nowadays.

While “society,” traditional partners, and the state’s roles are fully redefined, businesses, sometimes more advanced than themselves in these domains, pursue their mission based on results and long-term success. The vocabulary, heavily laden with negative concepts (exclusion, repression, crisis, risk, etc.), of these actors does not favor the establishment of the trust which is so essential if there is to be market success. This explains in large part the interest, sometimes growing, which is now shown in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility.

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