Mar 19, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

As an aspiring or current MBA student or graduate, you need to know about corporate social responsibility, or CSR. It’s all over the news—and with good reason. It’s getting political.

Under mounting social pressure, corporations are starting to step up where the government is failing. It’s not sheer goodwill, either. It’s social pressure.

How are companies stepping up? They’re taking stands on significant issues like immigration, global warming, the minimum wage, gun control, LGBT discrimination, harassment, and the #MeToo movement, to name a few.

They’re speaking out where the government is not.

What does this mean? It means that the relationship among private enterprise, government, and public citizens is shifting.

It means you need to understand this new landscape of CSR. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and why it’s important.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

CSR is the principle by which companies integrate social and environmental factors into their operations and overall interactions with customers and stakeholders.

CSR is part of what’s called the “Triple Bottom Line” approach—how a company achieves success by its economic, social, and environmental goals.

Key issues in CSR include environmental responsibility and management, stakeholder engagement, working conditions and standards, community relations, social equity, gender equity, human rights, governance, and anti-corruption policies.

Solid CSR can benefit companies by giving them an edge on new markets, increased sales and profits, increased savings, increased productivity, and efficient. Human resources practices.

Companies with worthy CSR experience positive reputations, improved customer loyalty, and strong risk management processes.

Why is CSR important? You can’t hide your ethics behind a big company anymore because that big company has a slight political edge in the statements it makes or doesn’t make regarding its social responsibility.

How is it evolving?

Scalability

CSR is not just about taking a stand. It’s about long-term sustainability of companies. As CSR grows, it’s becoming less peripheral and more central. CSR will become part of what makes companies successful or not—not only is it the “right” thing to do, it may give companies a competitive edge in new markets and in sustaining existing ones.

While there are CSR “best practices,” few companies abide by them until major corporations start taking a stand.

Scalable solutions with immediate impact will succeed.

Commitment

Many companies are keeping their commitments to sustainability regardless of politics.

In a 2017 Forbes article, Tim Mohin, chief executive at GRI said that companies who made a commitment to improving their environmental or social impacts will continue to do so, regardless of rollbacks, because it’s what they’ve promised customers.

In the article, Dell’s chief responsibility officer, Trisa Thompson said, “Completely regardless of the global political environment, corporations will continue the march toward sustainable production because it makes sense and is a business necessity.”

Social Impact

Corporate responsibility and social impact are becoming synonymous.

In the Forbes article, Liba Rubenstein, SVP of social impact at 21st Century Fox said that the shift toward social impact “reflects a growing consensus that the key driver for a company’s pro-social program should not be some generic standard of responsibility or as penance for perceived negative effects, but rather unique, measure, positive impact – human, environmental, societal, and financial.

Changing role in government

There may come a time when corporations govern as much or more as government. Global corporations already address initiatives in climate change, marine fisheries, and sustainable development because of the nature of their work.

Some may understand the nuances better than governments—this not only allows them to get closer to the consumer’s wants and needs, but also allows them to profit from it.

Why should you care?

CSR is here, it’s growing, and you will be a part of it if you choose a corporate path.

A recent article in The Conversation cited a study in which over 90 percent of business students said they’d be willing to sacrifice some part of their future salary to work for a responsible employer.

What does this mean? It means that a lot of you already think about this.

Most business students showed a positive attitude toward CSR and many disagreed that the most important concern for a company is making a profit.

While business students want to make money, many prioritize ethical and social responsibilities—particularly women.

Your takeaway? Learn about CSR—and figure out what kind of company you want to work for.

Learn more about CSR and Corporate Governance.

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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