Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility, sometimes written as CSR, is a term thrown around a lot in the business world, specifically regarding ethicality and fair business practices. The word is used to hold companies, corporations, businesses, and organizations accountable for their actions and the implications their actions may have on their community, the environment, and those around them.

Corporate Social Responsibility not only allows businesses to self-regulate themselves and have social accountability, but it can also immensely benefit a brand, company, or business and their public image, reputation, monetary earnings, etc. CSR is essential to both consumers and companies, as it can help provide a mutually beneficial relationship between the two.

Not only can proper Corporate Social Responsibility increase a brand’s recognition and reputation, which can lead to things like improved sales and better customer loyalty, but it can also help with organizational growth, companywide performance, and possibly even cost savings.

Two of the most common reasons for a company to use Corporate Social Responsibility are ethical reasons and strategic reasons. From a moral standpoint, CSR makes sense because of the inherent transparency involved in the business model and the possible ethical goals that may exist behind a company.

For example, if a brand or corporation is involved with environmental protection, it may make more sense on an ethical level to take practices within the company to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable, regardless of whether or not these practices would benefit the organization monetarily or socially.

From a strategic point of view, Corporate Social Responsibility may be used to harbor the benefits or potential benefits associated with CSR. Corporate Social Responsibility can be a part of a long-term strategic plan or business model, as once it is implemented, its impact and outcomes can be very impactful.

Nonprofit organizations and Corporate Social Responsibility

Because of this, CSR is not only a responsibility among companies and corporations but can be used as a business advantage. When it comes to nonprofit organizations, Corporate Social Responsibility can have specific benefits that look different from the benefits of for-profit organizations. For example, in addition to better identification and perception of an organization from the public, in nonprofit organizations, CSR can also lead to an increase in the number of volunteers an organization may receive or more political power to influence issues and agendas that benefit the goals of the organization.

Aside from the benefits, it may bring, Corporate Social Responsibility, in general, may also look a lot different when applied to a nonprofit context. The term ‘CSR’ itself may be viewed by many nonprofit organizations as “corporate terminology,” and thus avoided, even when a nonprofit is technically practicing Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s suggested that roughly two-thirds of all nonprofits engage in some behaviors that can be indicative of Corporate Social Responsibility, from being more environmentally friendly in their offices to keeping full transparency when needed.

Although the actual term ‘CSR’ may not be used among nonprofit organizations, the ethical implications of misusing or completely not using CSR can be substantial. Ethical issues that are prevalent among nonprofits, such as monetary issues, financial integrity, conflicts of interest, management, and accountability, can be better addressed, handled, and worked through when Corporate Social Responsibility is involved. Some people even say that Corporate Social

Responsibility in the nonprofit sector is more focused on taking accountability and maintaining transparency than it is on building partnerships or initiatives. Enforcing high moral and ethical standards in all corners of an organization can help keep things in check and may be considered a form of CSR.

From a consumer standpoint, Corporate Social Responsibility, whether it is called this or not, is becoming more and more crucial. Potential customers, donors, funders, or business partners have increasingly started to care more about the ethicality, responsibility, transparency, and good nature of the companies, organizations, corporations, and businesses they interact with. Along with consumers becoming more aware of industry malpractices, including concepts such as “greenwashing,” people, in general, are becoming more attuned to the practices an organization takes and what their core values and actions are. The role an organization or business plays in its community and surrounding environment is now more crucial than ever and can have a lasting impact.

How Can Nonprofits Utilize Corporate Social Responsibility

In order to increase the Corporate Social Responsibility that a brand has, it is first important to implement a strategic plan for setting goals, putting a plan of action into place, assessing outcomes, and reevaluating parts of the plan that need to be adjusted. The following list breaks down these steps and shows how nonprofit organizations can increase their corporate social responsibility and related social initiatives.

1. Forming and articulating clear and specific goals

When aiming to improve Corporate Social Responsibility, the first step should be to create SMART goals that can help you achieve what you want. SMART is an acronym used in goal-setting that stands for Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. These are all qualities that you will want your goals to have in order for your organization to have a higher chance of achieving them. Examples of SMART goals related to Corporate Social Responsibility might be to have a specific number of CSR-related partnerships within a certain period of time, raise a specific amount of funding or donations through CSR-initiatives within a certain period of time, or to complete a specific number of CSR-related initiatives within a certain period of time.

2. Researching 

Once goals are set and objectives are created, the next step is to do research. Not only will it be important to find potential Corporate Social Responsibility partners and donors, but building a campaign plan and proposal will also be of importance. Creating a campaign plan will involve things like reaching out to any potential partners, securing partnerships, and writing out a plan to specify the details of the campaign. Campaign plan details should be thorough and include all of the necessary steps needed for the implementation of the campaign. This may include information such as deadlines, timelines, resources, strategies, etc.

3. Utilize any strengths or advantages possible 

Finally, when it comes time to finalize your campaign plan, make sure to use any existing organizational or company-wide strengths to help the campaign succeed. For example, it may be helpful to utilize cross-promotional strategies or rely on engagement methods that have worked in the past. If your nonprofit happens to have a loyal following on a certain social media platform, it may be a good idea to use that platform to promote the campaign, and maybe even share those metrics and data with potential partners. No matter what area your nonprofit excels in, try to find ways to connect them into your Corporate Social Responsibility and related initiatives.

Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility

Leaders in the world of Corporate Social Responsibility include brands like Starbucks, Adidas, and Ben and Jerry’s. Starbucks remains one of the top companies in CSR because of its many initiatives and reputation for being a good employer. The Starbucks Foundation itself has helped many local communities, organizations, and people in a variety of ways. They also partner with those such as the Ethos Water Fund, which works to provide clean water to those around the world who are in need of it. Adidas is also known for its partnerships, working with Parley to create high-performance sportswear out of plastic waste, and joining forces with Greenpeace to bring light to many of the dangerous chemicals involved in global supply chains. Ben and Jerry’s has a reputation for creating impactful social campaigns and dedicating certain ice cream flavors to different causes and charities. They have also donated many of their pre-tax profits with the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation and Community Action Teams.

While creating CSR initiatives is often a great way for both profit and non-profit organizations to cause a positive impact, they can also go very wrong. When used irresponsibly or incorrectly, Corporate Social Responsibility has the potential to cause a major catastrophe. For example, when BP Oil released a more than $200 million dollar campaign to establish themselves as an environmentally responsible and sustainable company, they were already faced with some criticism. The criticism only became worse as BP underwent an 87-day oil spill that caused irreparable damage to the environment. Although CEO at the time, Tony Hayward, apologized on behalf of BP, his apology was met with even more criticism. BP Oil’s campaign was not taken seriously and their CSR initiative had only led to public to have more distrust and negative opinions.


When looking at Corporate Social Responsibility, it is important to examine the reasons behind wanting to utilize it for your organization. While authenticity, good behaviors, and ethicality can have many positive impacts on a business or organization, they can also hurt an organization if it is perceived that they are used merely as marketing tools to deceive the public. The way CSR operates is more ingrained among nonprofit organizations, and can therefore be implemented or increased in different ways than it would for other businesses or organizations. The most important piece of advice is to always prepare, do research, and articulate well-thought-out plans and goals to achieve the things that are most important to your organization.

By Amanda Conover