|Credit: Holding Earth image via Shutterstock|
With an eye on the environment and social issues, many businesses are no longer solely focused on turning a profit. A top priority for many organizations today is corporate social responsibility, which focuses on how businesses deal with their environmental, social and economic impacts.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs benefit businesses two-fold: they help businesses operate in ways that benefit society and help improve public perception.
Finding the cheapest price is no longer what always matters most to consumers. Instead, they expect the companies they do business with to operate in a socially responsible manner. A recent study from Cone Communications and Echo Research revealed corporate social responsibility is now a reputational imperative, with more than 90 percent of shoppers worldwide likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality. Overall, more than 80 percent of those surveyed consider social and environmental issues when deciding where to work, what to buy, where to shop and which products and services to recommend to others.
It's not only consumers who are demanding businesses become stewards of social responsibility. Research from job search site TheLadders discovered that nearly 90 percent of respondents said working for an environmentally friendly company was important to them. An additional 72 percent of workers said they would choose a job at an eco-friendly company over another company if given the choice.
Practicing social responsibility also pays off financially for many companies. A study from the University of Iowa found that businesses that make greater investments in corporate social responsibility initiatives see less risk in their stock prices during economic downturns.
Types of corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility can encompass a wide variety of tactics, from donating money to local charities to not producing goods in third-world sweat shops. Here are some of the ways businesses worldwide are practicing social responsibility:
Environment: One primary focus of corporate social responsibility is on caring for the environment. Businesses, both large and small, have a large carbon footprint. Any steps that can be taken to reduce those are considered both good for the company and society as a whole. Examples include everything from curbing pollution to developing clean energy solutions.
Philanthropy: Donating to national and local charities is another way business are practicing social responsibility. Whether it involves giving money or time, businesses have a lot of resources from which charities and local community programs can benefit.
Ethical Labor Practices: Treating employees fairly and ethically are other ways companies can practice corporate social responsibility. This is especially true of businesses that operate in international locations where employees aren’t always treated with the same respect that workers are in the United States. Research shows that consumers, especially those in the United States, are extremely quick to turn on companies found operating sweatshops or violating other ethical labor practices.
Examples of corporate social responsibility
While many companies are now practicing some form of social responsibility, some have made it more a core of their operations. [Related: 6 Businesses That Give Back]
One well-known example of corporate social responsibility is Ben and Jerry's ice cream, which uses only fair trade ingredients and developed a dairy farm sustainability program in its home state of Vermont.
Starbucks has also been publically lauded for it corporate social responsibility efforts. The coffee giant created its C.A.F.E. Practices guidelines, which are designed to ensure the company is sourcing sustainably grown and processed coffee by evaluating the economic, social and environmental aspects of coffee production.
Tom's Shoes is another notableexample of a company that has social responsibility at its core. The shoe company donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased.