Types of Social Responsibility: Sustainability
One type of corporate social responsibility focuses on three key dimensions of sustainability—environmental, social, and economic.
- Sustainability generally refers to a company’s capacity to endure over the long term through renewal, maintenance, and sustenance. From an organizational perspective, it includes stewardship for sustaining not just the organization but also its various stakeholders.
- While a universally accepted definition of sustainability remains elusive, according to a common definition, sustainability has three key dimensions: environmental, social, and economic.
- Tracking sustainability measures can be performed through sustainability accounting, in which a corporation discloses its performance with respect to activities directly affect the social, environmental, and economic performance of an organization.
- Environmental aspects can relate to water, land, and atmospheric impact, including energy and chemical use. Social sustainability can include human and worker rights and community issues. Economic aspects can include financial transparency and accountability and corporate governance.
- stewardship: The act of caring for or improving with time.
- impact: A significant or strong influence; an effect.
Many efforts to show corporate social responsibility, or CSR, focus on environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Sustainability is the capacity to endure over the long term through renewal, maintenance, and sustenance. From an organizational perspective, sustainability is a criteria used to make decisions about business conduct and to evaluate outcomes.
Environmental sustainability involves efforts to protect air, water, and land from any harmful effects. It also encompasses stewardship for natural resources, such as trees and wildlife. Sustainable business practices consider not only the use of resources in production, but also the assurance that those resources can be replenished for future use. Energy is another area of interest in environmental sustainability. Reducing greenhouse gasses harmful to the atmosphere and embracing alternative, renewable fuel sources such as wind and energy are examples of business practices in this area.
The social dimension of sustainability addresses concerns such as peace and social justice. Efforts to improve education, to expand worker rights, to minimize the use of child labor, and to increase the political empowerment of women, especially in developing countries, are examples of social sustainability practices. Reducing poverty by helping people develop the skills to earn their own livelihoods is another example of social sustainability. Projects that provide access to clean water and sanitation are also aimed at improving social sustainability by reducing illness and mortality rates.
Economic sustainability refers to business practices that do not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed in the present. This means companies’ operational practices reduce environmental damage and resource depletion. Efforts to influence business practices toward economic sustainability include pricing mechanisms, such as carbon taxes, that pass on the cost of environmental impact to the users of those resources.
Tracking sustainability measures can be performed using sustainability accounting, in which a corporation discloses its performance with respect to activities that have a direct impact on the societal, environmental, and economic performance of an organization. According to common definitions, sustainability has three key dimensions: environmental, social, and economic. The three pillars—also known as the “triple bottom line”—have served as a common ground for numerous sustainability standards and certification systems in recent years, though a universally accepted definition of sustainability remains elusive.
Types of Social Responsibility: Ecocentric Management
According to the ecocentric model of CSR, environmental protection and sustainability are more important than economic or social benefits.
Explain the concept of ecocentric corporate social responsibility and how it relates to other forms of CSR
- Ecocentric CSR seeks to protect and improve the quality of the natural environment, regardless of the economic benefits to an organization.
- Ecocentric CSR reflects an organization’s commitment to the environment as the primary core value for conducting business.
- As a core business activity, ecocentric management may also incorporate life-cycle assessment, a technique aimed at assessing the environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life, from raw material extraction to disposal or recycling.
- ecology: The branch of biology dealing with the relationships of organisms with their environment and with each other.
Corporate social responsibility, also referred to as CSR, can be described as a business’s efforts to assume responsibility for its actions and to encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, and other stakeholders. Ecocentric management is one type of CSR that adopts a deeply ecological view of business.
The ecocentric model differs from more human-centered interpretations of sustainability or responsibility. “Deep” ecology is a form of environmentalism that seeks to protect and improve the quality of the natural environment. It values environmental good above economic or even social benefits. For this reason, ecocentric CSR activities, more than any other type of CSR efforts, are not expected to provide business benefits. Instead, they reflect an organization’s commitment to the environment as the primary core value for conducting business.
Ecocentric supporters believe that low-impact technology and self-reliance are more desirable than technological control over nature. As a result, the ecocentric manager may argue against using ecologically damaging products, such as pesticides and nuclear power, even if these products benefit people. In this way, the ecocentric approach contrasts with that of a more traditional CSR environmental sustainability, which seeks to maintain economic performance while reducing the impact of those products or making parallel investments in alternatives.
Ecocentric CSR activities are typically integrated with business operations. For example, they may incorporate life-cycle assessment, a technique aimed at assessing the environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling. The more environmentally harmful stages can be identified and targeted for improvement so that every part of the value chain demonstrates the paramount importance of ecocentric CSR.
Arguments for and against Corporate Social Responsibility
Most arguments both for and against CSR are based on how a company’s attempts to be socially responsible affect its bottom line.
Contrast the views in favor of and opposing corporate social responsibility
- Proponents of corporate social responsibility (CSR) argue that socially responsible practices can have a positive impact on the bottom line.
- While some evidence links CSR to financial performance, its proponents also point to non-financial rewards as well as to benefits to the environment and social welfare.
- Some critics see CSR as unrelated to the primary aim of the business: making a profit for its shareholders.
- Critics may also see some CSR efforts as attempts at public manipulation or greenwashing.
- shareholder: One who owns shares of stock in a business.
- bottom line: The final balance; the amount of money or profit left after everything has been tallied.
Corporate social responsibility, also referred to as CSR, can be described as embracing responsibility for a company’s actions and encouraging a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, and other stakeholders.
While some evidence links CSR practices to business performance, most organizations point to the non-financial benefits of their efforts. Proponents of CSR argue that socially responsible practices can have a positive impact on the organization by improving employee recruitment and retention, managing environmental risks by reducing harmful accidents, and differentiating brand to achieve greater consumer loyalty. CSR proponents may also argue for the recognition of a “triple bottom line” performance that includes not only financial returns for owners but also social and environmental benefits for the greater society.
Milton Friedman and other conservative critics have argued against CSR, stating that a corporation’s purpose is to maximize returns to its shareholders (or shareholder value) and that it does not have responsibilities to society as a whole. Part of the critics’ argument is that managers should not select social causes on behalf of a diverse set of owners. Rather, CSR opponents believe that corporations benefit society best by distributing profits to owners, who can then make charitable donations or take other socially responsible actions as they see fit.
Other critics, rather than targeting the concept of CSR, point to examples of weak CSR programs. For example, the term greenwashing refers to instances where businesses have spent significantly more resources advertising being “green“ (that is, operating with consideration for the environment) than investing in the environmentally sound practices themselves. Critics view these as misleading, even cynical, attempts to shape public perception about a company without its actually having to benefit the environment.