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Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility: Definition, Effects, & Examples

CSR, or corporate social responsibility, is designed to ensure companies run their business in a way that is ethical, but also provides stakeholders with economic, environmental, and social benefits. Learn more about corporate social responsibility by reading this article.

Today's businesses have more to worry about than the products and services they sell customers.

Consumers in modern-day society want to feel that the companies they choose to do business with are serving a higher purpose.

Of course, the current market is much more competitive than it has been in years past. There are plenty of brands offering similar products. And many products and services tend to fall within the same or near-same price range.

How then, does one choose which businesses to pledge their loyalty?

Based on recent data, corporate social responsibility is one of the major criteria considered by consumers when making decisions to buy. According to a 2015 study by Cone Communications, 84% of consumers seek out globally responsible companies whenever possible. And, 81% cite this as the reason for not spending more.

Find out the meaning of corporate social responsibility and how it's changing the consumer market today!

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is a type of business model that holds corporations to an elevated standard of consciousness. Companies that adopt this model aim to practice awareness regarding their impact on the world in a variety of areas.

Businesses may cite social, economic, and environmental causes as part of what defines their products, services, or identity.

Some of these companies choose to impact the world through their influence. While others might choose to implement conscientious practices in the manufacturing or delivery of the products or services that they sell.

Considering the widespread popularity of socially responsible brands, it could even be that some businesses see this affiliation as a wise marketing strategy. At any rate, it does appear to attract many of today's consumers.

With the overwhelming percentage of buyers committed to this new way of consumer thinking, more and more businesses are seeing its' overlapping value. As a result, businesses not only reap profitable benefits, but they also get the satisfaction of having an impact on the world.

New Consumer Market Encourages Change

Over the past decade, Americans have witnessed a major shift in the way products and services market themselves.

Corporations, fashion brands, and service providers once depended on characteristics such as quality, durability, effectiveness, and a competitive price, to win over their customers. However, this isn't always true in today's marketplace.

Now, it seems, businesses have the power to use their marketing mojo for a greater good. And, it isn't just companies who are jumping aboard this train. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, and community leaders are using their status to make an impact as well.

The public is now interested in the way that companies and celebrities define themselves socially. If a customer is displeased with how something or someone uses their product or image, or the star-power that they might possess, it could very well cause them to search for a replacement altogether.

A Growing Demand for Action

Anyone who looks back at how consumer behavior has changed over the past decade is bound to notice the growing demand for action.

In fact, consumers aren't just demanding action out of the businesses that they support. They appear to be pledging to be part of the action as well.

During 2018, the headlines featured a constant reel of stories testifying to the power of people coming together, united by their common commitment to social responsibility.

Businesses and professionals of all kinds, from practically every industry, openly declared support for something beyond themselves throughout the year. This included political affiliation, social justice, human rights, humanitarian causes, and more. Everywhere we turned, we saw company affiliations with hot topics that had never before been part of the professional culture.

Examples of Socially Responsibility in Corporate America

In recent years, you don't have to look far to find countless examples of socially responsible businesses and professionals.

Some businesses create marketing strategies that include their support of a socially responsible cause. While other companies' leaders will take an open stand pledging their support of a socially responsible idea or personally-held value.

Here are just a few of the most widely-publicized recent examples of socially responsible businesses or professionals.

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream view social responsibility as much more than a trendy marketing gimmick. It's been a part of their company values since their inception in 1985. Back then, it was not the well-received trend among corporations that it is today.

They initially made a decision to hand over 7.5% of their pre-tax profits to philanthropic causes, and the cold-treat connoisseurs never looked back. Today, they donate over $1.8 million dollars per year towards community action, social change, sustainability, and other initiatives in their home state of Vermont, and throughout the United States.

Every pint of their ice cream comes with a reminder of our responsibility to others and

the world we live in.


The world's go-to search engine stands apart from the others as a leader in internet technology, but they stand apart in the way that they approach their greater responsibility to the world as well.

They have set the online standard with their one-of-a-kind algorithm, which they update on a regular basis, and the most current SEO ranking factors, among other web-based innovations. But, they have established themselves as a leader in another area, although they may not be as well-known for it.

They are considered the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world. They also lead a number of social impact initiatives, such as the Equal Justice Initiative, Goodwill Industries International, and their StoryWeaver platform.

In addition, the company encourages employees to be part of the climate for social change with a variety of programs supporting a wide range of causes. For example, they facilitate green commutes for workers and pay their employees for taking time off to volunteer.

Wegmens Food Markets

The popular grocery store chain is well-known for its sustainability practices and commitment to social accountability. In fact, according to a recent Harris Poll, consumers rank Wegmens as number one in companies exhibiting corporate social responsibility.

Their website shares how they are working to spread environmental awareness. And, it's easy to see that this is one company that puts their money where their mouth is. They've implemented plans to reduce emissions and landfill waste, and supply sustainably sourced seafood in their stores.

They are also active in local and national advocacy projects and have donated substantial amounts of funding to local schools and educational programs.

The Increased Impact of Socially Aware Corporations

Not so long ago, the impact of corporations was primarily limited to the products and services that they provided to customers. Not so in today's consumer market.

Today, the consumer market has developed an intense interest that goes beyond the scope of what these corporations are selling. The modern-day customer has a tendency to choose companies and brands not only based on their quality but also based on their commitment to social good.

Companies who adopt socially aware practices are more popular than ever. And, in exchange for their do-good status, these businesses typically experience greater profits and a wider consumer base than their non-chelate counterparts.

The far-reaching impact of social awareness is something that is often observed in the news media and public. But, the payoff for corporate conscientiousness isn't limited to the organizations these efforts support.

Companies are likely to benefit from the gifts they bestow, so it seems. According to research, these companies may have more reason than one to use their profits for the good of others.

A 2015 Nielsen global online survey found that 66% of the consumers who responded are willing to pay more for products and services by companies who are committed to making a positive social and/or environmental impact.

When Social Good Goes Bad

If you think the future of your business can be sustained on a socially responsible reputation alone, you might be in for a surprise. Not every effort in this vein is rewarded. Sometimes, a company's efforts to do-good may go south.

Some of the current research shows that while social responsibility has become a common mantra by today's big businesses, it can trigger some not-so-good behaviors in employees.

One study highlighted how workers tend to underperform when they feel they are being morally-licensed by their employer. Although people may appreciate the efforts of companies who want to do for others, no one likes for others to tell them what to do. This may be even more true when it comes to one's earnings.

The study offered pre-payment to employees but then gave contributions to a cause on behalf of staff member's monies. What the study found was that employees under this type of pressure are more likely to balk, resorting to cheating their employers out of work and/or earned wages.

While people may appreciate and support companies who act in socially responsible ways, they do not want to be forced on board with companies' social causes, it appears.

Best Practices for Corporate Social Awareness

Companies who adhere to a few guidelines are more likely to reap the greatest benefits from their do-good efforts.

Recommendations for businesses who wish to take part in the growing trend of social responsibility include:

  • Avoid highly personal or controversial attacks on any other parties

  • Don't require employees to give to a specific cause

  • Give workers a voice in company causes and developing plans of actions to support company efforts

  • Make employee incentives fun and engaging

  • Create mutually beneficial ways that employees can take part in socially responsible efforts

There is much good that can come from corporations' investing in greater social accountability. But, companies must carefully balance the interest of their workers with the good of the outside world, as well as company gain, to get the best results.

A Simple Way to Show Your Support

If you are looking for simple ways that your business can show support to a cause or organization, we have some ideas that may help.

One of the most effective and popular ways to state corporate social responsibility is to do so without saying a word.

How can companies do this?

Many businesses are turning to t-shirts to express their good intentions.

T-shirts with a message can be worn by staff, or sold to workers who wish to support a specific cause. This allows your employees to choose whether they want to be a part of the company's efforts. Employees may be more receptive if they do not feel forced to take on the company cause.

Another idea is to offer giveaways to customers who make donations to the company's organization of choice. Again, t-shirts make an easy and inexpensive prize for drawings and raffles.

You might also choose to advertise your support of a cause through company tees. This can be an effective way to garner local support, especially if the organization is one that has a high level of local interest.

For example, t-shirts that show a company's support of local schools or youth programs often are appreciated by the public. In fact, some consumers may want to purchase a t-shirt of their own to benefit area youth. This can be a great way to earn free advertising for your efforts, as well.

T-shirts allow businesses to spread awareness and engage the public in a humble and unassuming way.

Do you have a cause or organization that your company wants to support?

Check out these charities for ideas on how you can get involved and give back to others!

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