Crash Course on Business Ethics: Corporate Social Responsibility

Olivia Barredo
May 15, 2023

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Businesses can exhibit accountability and dedication through various business ethics towards contributing to societal and community well-being by practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which involves self-regulation through environmental and social measures.

CSR's impact on a company's success and reputation is significant, as it influences customer and employee attraction, investor interest, talent retention, and brand perception.

Four forms of CSR that a company can adopt include ethical labor practices, charity work, volunteer projects, and environmental initiatives.

A code of ethics is important in business because it sets the standards and expectations for ethical behavior within an organization, helps prevent unethical or illegal actions, enhances the reputation and credibility of the company, and fosters a positive corporate culture.


What is Corporate Social Responsibility?


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business approach that considers the impact of operations on society, the environment, and the economy, going beyond traditional profit-maximizing practices.

Modern Corporate Social Responsibility has its roots in the 1950s when businesses began to recognize the social and environmental impacts of their operations. It was introduced to businesses as a means of promoting sustainable development and addressing societal and environmental concerns while also benefiting the company's bottom line.



Key Elements of Corporate Social Responsibility

Social Responsibility

Social Responsibility (sometimes referred to as philanthropic responsibility) in business involves giving back to society through charitable donations or establishing charitable organizations to create a positive impact.

Companies are expected to perform their social responsibility by operating ethically, promoting sustainability, treating employees fairly, and contributing to communities through philanthropy and volunteerism.

Patagonia, Inc. is an example of a company that practices social responsibility. They are committed to sustainability, fair labor practices, and philanthropic efforts, including donating 1% of their sales to environmental causes.



Economic Responsibility

Economic responsibility involves making financial decisions that prioritize positive impacts on the environment, people, and society, rather than just maximizing profits.

Companies are expected to perform their economic responsibility by not only generating profits and providing a return on investment to their shareholders, but also by following ethical business practices and contributing to the overall well-being of the society.

Ben & Jerry's practices economic responsibility through various initiatives. They have committed to paying all employees a living wage, which means that all employees earn at least 46% above the federal minimum wage. They also source their ingredients from suppliers who follow fair trade and environmental standards, and they invest in community development programs in their sourcing regions. Additionally, they donate a percentage of their profits to social and environmental causes through their foundation.



Environmental Responsibility

Environmental responsibility is a common form of corporate social responsibility that involves behaving in an environmentally friendly way

This can be achieved by reducing harmful practices, regulating energy consumption, and offsetting negative environmental impacts.

Unilever, for example, practices environmental responsibility. They have set a goal to become carbon positive by 2030 and have committed to using 100% renewable energy in their operations by 2030. They also have initiatives to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and to promote sustainable agriculture.



Ethical Responsibility

Ethical responsibility involves ensuring fair and ethical behavior towards all stakeholders, including leadership, investors, employees, suppliers, and customers.

Businesses can embrace ethical responsibility by setting higher minimum wages, sourcing products according to free trade standards, and implementing processes to prevent purchasing products resulting from slavery or child labor.

One example of a company that practices ethical responsibility is The Body Shop, which sources its raw materials through fair trade and uses its platform to promote animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and human rights. They also have a "Community Fair Trade" program to support small-scale farmers and producers in developing countries.



Benefits of CSR


Positive Impact on Society

CSR provides companies with the opportunity to make a substantial positive impact by leveraging and showcasing their initiatives, which are aligned with their values and help people in local and global communities.


Reputation and Branding

CSR can improve a company's reputation and brand by demonstrating responsible practices, which can attract and retain customers and suppliers who prioritize ethical and sustainable business.



Loyal Customer Base

A robust CSR strategy can showcase a company's consistency, trustworthiness, and alignment with consumers' values, leading to increased customer loyalty, retention, and sales, according to research.



Employee Satisfaction and Retention

CSR can improve employee satisfaction and retention by providing a sense of purpose and engagement, promoting a positive work environment, and attracting and retaining top talent.

Corporate Social Responsibility is important for businesses in today's society as it helps businesses create a positive impact on society, build a strong reputation, and gain a competitive advantage while meeting the needs of various stakeholders.


Incorporating CSR practices into business operations not only creates a positive impact on society but also enhances your brand reputation, builds customer loyalty, increases employee satisfaction, and ultimately drives business success.