If you pay attention, there are signs in the marketplace that speak to the notion that where companies have been given much in the way of prosperity, much is expected from them – this rings especially true when discussing the social responsibility of corporations.
Shareholders, stakeholders and the public are evaluating pay rates. They’re also interested in a company’s willingness to give back to people, communities and the environment. These are not selfish things on the part of consumers and others. Companies that openly demonstrate that they genuinely desire to make the world a nicer, better place will strengthen their brands and increase their reputations. Their efforts usually come back to them in the way of increased sales and customer loyalty.
Most companies get to a point where they’re financially successful before they initiate social corporate responsibility programs. They need to be responsible to themselves and to their shareholders before they can give back to others.
What Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
Corporate social responsibility is also aptly known as corporate citizenship. Both terms refer to a business model that encourages companies to be socially responsible with their time and funding. The term refers to the ability and willingness of companies to make a positive impact on the economy, the environment and the community. Corporate social responsibility is something that is important to stakeholders, the public and the company.
Published Standards for Corporate Social Responsibility
To alleviate any questions about what constitutes the social responsibility of corporations, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 26000, the standards to help companies establish programs and processes for corporate social responsibility, in 2010. The standards don’t outline requirements for the social responsibility of corporations, because the nature of social responsibility is more qualitative than quantitative. There is no way to set certifiable standards, so the ISO established a set of guidelines for companies to follow.
The guidelines in ISO 26000 explain what social responsibility is and help businesses and other organizations to turn those principles into social responsibility actions. The ISO guidelines were thoughtfully designed with the valuable input of many stakeholders around the world. The result is a set of standards that an international consensus of perspectives produces. The ISO’s guidelines were written so that they apply to all types of organizations and they relate to companies of all sizes, industries and locations.
How Corporations Benefit from Corporate Social Responsibility
In many ways, corporate social responsibility is a win/win situation. Society provides the volunteers, the need for programs and sometimes the philanthropist partners for companies that want to give back to their communities in this way. Companies benefit by forging closer relationships with employees and their companies. A closer bond also helps employees and companies to strengthen their bonds with the greater world around them. When it all works well together, and often it does, the company gains even more in reputational gains and strengthening its brand.
Starbucks coffee shops are known for more than gourmet coffees and quaint, soothing atmospheres. Even before owners took the company public in 1992, they were making a name for themselves in corporate social responsibility. The longer they’ve been in business, the more they’ve gotten involved in social responsibility. Starbucks uses coffee beans that are 99% ethically sourced. The company created a global network of farmers and hired over 10,000 refugees across 75 different countries. From their green building mindset in opening new stores to getting their employees involved in environmental leadership, Starbucks has made the social responsibility of corporations part of their corporate culture, from the top to the bottom. Starbucks’ employees have contributed millions of hours of community service. The owners of Starbucks have returned the favor by offering their partners and employees access to a groundbreaking college program. Starbucks is the epitome of corporate social responsibility in large and small ways. They have even reduced the environmental impact of their disposable coffee cups.
BMW, the upscale car manufacturer, is another well-known company that clearly demonstrates the social responsibility of corporations. BMW has set a goal to help over 1 million people by the year 2020. BMW’s The Schools Environmental Education Development Project helps raise awareness of social and environmental issues. In China, BMW sponsors the Children’s Traffic Safety Education program, which teaches children about road safety. China Culture Journey promotes and preserves the traditional Chinese culture, the intangible cultural heritage, cultural exchanges and product exhibitions. All these programs inspire the development of social responsibility. BMW JOY Home is a program for stakeholders to get involved in a program for China’s children who are left behind in underdeveloped areas. Through this program, the children get equal opportunities to those of other children. In addition, BMW created the China Charity Federation BMW Warm Heart Fund, which supports a large array of programs and partners.
Levi Strauss has worked diligently to reduce its footprint on the environment. They’ve also been active in human rights issues and in environmental causes. Levi Strauss developed a Worker Well-Being initiative, which seeks to improve the lives of its employees. In addition, out of its commitment to water conservation, Levi Strauss established a water-less campaign and committed to using as little water as possible when manufacturing its products. To date, the company has saved many millions of liters of water, and they’re committed to improving their operations even further by the year 2020.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Ben and Jerry are more than just the ice cream guys with the creatively named collection of frozen concoctions. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has focused on keeping the company connected with its employees from the beginning. The men formed Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and they happily give 7.5% of their proceeds to charitable organizations globally. Thus far, the Foundation has donated over $2 million to various organizations. The ice cream company built its culture around deep respect for its employees and people the world over.
Final Thoughts On Social Responsibility of Corporations
For companies to participate in social corporate responsibility activities puts a large amount of extra work on their plates. But that’s what it takes to be a modern company.